Women

Opinion | Family

A Daughter's Grief Observed

Meghan O'Rourke's luminous 'The Long Goodbye' traces the final months as her mother succumbs to cancer.

Meghan O'Rourke is best known as a literary and cultural critic, a contributor to Slate, and the onetime fiction editor at The New Yorker. But she is a poet first, as is clear from the opening pages of her new memoir, The Long Goodbye. A chronicle of the final months of her mother's life and the months afterward, O'Rourke's book is luminous; her words evoke her tremendous love for and grief over her mother with a grace that few writers can match:

Nothing prepared me for the loss of my mother …. A mother, after all, is your entry into the world. She is the shell in which you divide and become a life. Waking up in a world without her is like waking up in a world without the sky: unimaginable.

O'Rourke's reflections on what a mother means—and what her mother meant to her—are achingly sad in light of her loss, but no less a beautiful tribute to a mother who loved children, dogs, and life itself ("Your A Good Mom. Your A Good Sewer. How Come You Are So Nice," [sic], O'Rourke ...

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