Formerly 'The Mile Long Bookshelf'

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

The Opposite of Loneliness: Essays and Stories by Marina Keegan

Title: The Opposite of Loneliness: Essays and Stories
Author: Marina Keegan
Published by: Simon & Schuster
Publication date: 19th June 2014
Pages: 209
Genres: Non-fiction/Memoir/Essays/Short stories
Format: Hardback
Source: Review copy from Waterstones.

Marina Keegan's star was on the rise when she graduated from Yale in May 2012. She had a play that was to be produced at the New York International Fringe Festival and a job waiting for her at the New Yorker. Tragically, five days after graduation, Marina died in a car crash.

As her family, friends and classmates, deep in grief, joined to create a memorial service for Marina, her unforgettable last essay for the Yale Daily News, 'The Opposite of Loneliness', went viral, receiving more than 1.4 million hits. She had struck a chord.

Even though she was just twenty-two when she died, Marina left behind a rich, expansive trove of prose that, like her title essay, captures the hope, uncertainty and possibility of her generation. The Opposite of Loneliness is an assemblage of Marina's essays and stories that articulates the universal struggle we all face as we work out what we aspire to be and how we can harness our talents to make an impact on the world.

When Waterstones approached me last month asking if I would like to be a part of their book club, I had to say yes. Not just because it was Waterstones, aka my favourite bookshop, but also because the book on offer was The Opposite of Loneliness: Essays and Stories by Marina Keegan. This book has been all over social media since it was published last year, and I have never heard a negative word against it.

Here's the thing: just a few months ago, I wasn't really into non-fiction. People would recommend biographies and essays, and I'd shrug a non-committal shrug and delve back into whichever YA book I was reading that day. And then, slowly, non-fiction started trickling into my bookish diet. The Opposite of Loneliness has been the perfect addition to my growing collection.

Keegan was a student full of life and full of potential. She was twenty-two and there was so much she wanted to do, so much she wanted to see - and then, five days after graduation, she died, leaving behind a computer full of essays and stories, some finished, some never to see the light of day. The Opposite of Loneliness is a selection of some of her finest works, carefully curated by her friends and family and, by the time I'd finished her first essay, I was already inspired.

With posthumous writing, people might be tempted to overlook things that would have irritated them in any other book, because they're so overwhelmed with sadness for what happened to the author. But there's no danger of that here, because Keegan was a truly exceptional writer, with a similar voice to Rainbow Rowell in places. It makes me sad that this is the only work of hers that we will ever get to see. Given a few more years, she would have been topping the bestseller lists with full novels. It does make me happy, though, that even when she is no longer around, she still achieved her biggest dream and will continue to spread her unique outlook on life for years to come.

Marina Keegan is not my favourite author, nor is this my favourite book, as there were a couple of short stories I wasn't overly excited about, but she has become a literary inspiration for me. If I'm ever able to string words together just half as beautifully as she has, then I'll be happy. Everything she writes is so deliberate, full of talent, and the book itself has a consistently strong, if not eerie, message: we have our whole lives ahead of us, so let's make it count. If you're looking for a motivational book, this is definitely one to add to your wish list.
Thank you so much to Waterstones for asking me to be a part of their book club this month. No, this didn't affect my opinion of the book - it really is beautiful. The other bloggers reading this with me were Kirsty and Jessica, and you can see their reviews here and here. And, if you would like to read The Opposite of Loneliness, you can order a copy here


  1. How tragic but sounds like an interesting read

  2. I'm REALLY not into non-fiction myself, but I LOVED The Opposite of Loneliness. The short stories were really readable, and MOST of the essays were interesting too (I think some would be more interesting to American readers... they were kind of irrelevant to me!). I think the message of the book - let's make it count - was pretty uplifting, although at times it was a bit forced. But overall, I liked it!
    Beth x

  3. I'm not usually into non-fiction either, but now I have to add this to my TBR pile. It just looks such an interesting and thought provoking read! Great review :)

  4. This book was on my TBR pile for so long and I can't wait to finish the books I'm on right now in order to read this one.

  5. I really love this idea, I am a big fan of different non fiction books! This one sounds like one I would really enjoy definitely adding to my list. A great review x


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