The Opposite of Loneliness | book review

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I’m tired. It’s been a long summer and finally I’m getting ready to move back into school. This review kind of sucks compared to my others because I only have my Kindle to write it on, and it’s midnight and I’m tired. Have I mentioned I’m tired?

Title: The Opposite of Loneliness: Essays and Stories
Author: Marina Keegan
Series: n/a
Publisher: Scribner
Publication Date: April 2014
Genre(s): Non-fiction, Memoir

Opening Line:

We don’t have a word for the opposite of loneliness, but if we did, I could say that’s what I want in life.

–from the essay The Opposite of Loneliness

The Synopsis

At age 22, Marina Keegan was already Somebody with a capital S. She graduated from Yale magna cum laude with a degree in English. She had interned at The New Yorker and had a job as editorial assistant set up after graduation. Her writing had been published various times in The New Yorker and she even had a play accepted for a stage reading at a theatre festival. And she wasn’t going to stop there:

We’re so young. We’re so young. We’re twenty-two years old. We have so much time.

But Marina didn’t have as much time as she thought, nor as much time as she deserved. Five days after graduating, Marina died in a car accident. That was four years ago. After her death, her family, friends, and professors put together this collection of stories and essays to keep her memory alive. Marina’s collegiate career was devoted to writing — short stories, essays, plays, poetry, you name it. And through this memoir, we’re able to get a small glimpse into Marina’s life and mind. Though she died much too early, she will not be forgotten. She left behind words that many of us, especially those in this generation, can relate to.

The Plot

The first 70% of this book is comprised of Marina’s fiction writing. I read many reviews harping about how terrible her short stories are and I want to give all of them the middle finger for Marina. I liked her stories. I think Marina has a very relatable voice and can make her characters actually sound like their age. We’ve all read books by adults that completely fail at capturing a young adult’s voice. It sounds fake and it’s painful to read. But Marina’s characters feel real and honest. She can make a twenty-something-year-old sound like a twenty-something-year-old. I thought she captured youth really well in her stories “Winter Break” and “Ingenue.” And she can capture the reality of her older characters as well. “Reading Aloud” was so sad and felt beyond Marina’s years to me, but wow, she really made you feel the loneliness, despair, and desperation of her character. I think that was Marina’s strong suit. Were her stories perfect? Brilliant? Mind-blowing? No. Because she was 22 years old and died before being able to perfect her skill. She didn’t even get to further edit these stories because she died. I enjoyed most of her stories and I think you will too. Her non-fiction is good, too. Being an English major myself, I kind of expected critical essays and research papers. I mean, that’s all I write. I should have known “essays” meant just that: essays. Essays on all kinds of things — life, death, the end of the world. She really was a great writer. My favorite essay was “Stability in Motion” where she uses her car as a way of telling her story of growing up. I love it. I love all the things her car symbolized and how it represented various stages of her life. I also liked “Against the Grain” because my step-sister also has Celiac’s disease and I could recognize some of those struggles in that essay. I really enjoyed her discussions about the universe and existence, though. “Putting the ‘Fun’ back in Eschatology” and “Song for the Special” were such fun, short reads. Fun stuff to think about. I wish I could read more from Marina. Especially her poetry. You only get a couple short snippets of her poetry but I really like them.

The Characters

It’s really hard to use my typical format for non-fiction writing. Marina’s fictional characters were, for the most part, interesting and fun to read about. Her non-fiction writing was just as enjoyable because Marina was such an interesting woman. I think I would have liked her.

The Writing

I already talked a lot about her writing and I’m standing by those opinions. I think Marina was a great aspiring writer that was taken from the world too soon. She could have improved astronomically and written great things. But I think The Opposite of Loneliness is a great collection and showcases her personality really well. It’s tragic what happened to Marina, but I’m so thankful for the chance to be able to read her words and get to know her a little. I am thankful for that.

My Rating


Favorite Quote(s): “I miss dreaming forwards. … I dream backwards now.”

“The thing is, someday the sun is going to die and everything on Earth will freeze. This will happen. Even if we end global warming and clean up our radiation. The complete works of William Shakespeare, Monet’s lilies, all of Hemingway, all of Milton, all of Keats, our music libraries, our library libraries, our galleries, our poetry, our letters, our names etched in desks. I used to think printing things made them permanent, but that seems so silly now. Everything will be destroyed no matter how hard we work to create it. The idea terrifies me.”

“Everyone thinks they’re special. … How presumptuous! To assume specialness in the first place. As I age, I can see the possibilities fade from the fourth-grade displays: it’s too late to be a doctor, to star in a movie, to run for president. There’s a really good chance I’ll never do anything. It’s selfish and self-centered to consider, but it scares me.”

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