Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Review: The Opposite of Loneliness by Marina Keegan

An affecting and hope-filled posthumous collection of essays and stories from the talented young Yale graduate whose title essay captured the world's attention in 2012 and turned her into an icon for her generation.

Marina Keegan's star was on the rise when she graduated magna cum laude 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, like The Last Lecture, articulates the universal struggle that all of us face as we figure out what we aspire to be and how we can harness our talents to make an impact on the world.

The story of Marina Keegan isn't a happy one. In 2012, five days after she graduated from Yale University, Marina was killed in a car accident. Shortly afterward, the essay she had written for the Yale commencement program The Opposite of Loneliness went viral on the internet receiving millions of views. Now, a collection of her works--both fiction and non-fiction--has been released for the world to read.

I was one of the people who read the essay in 2012. I was incredibly struck by her untimely death as Marina is only three weeks younger than me. We were born in the same month. To know that, and then to read words like "We're so young. We're so young. We're twenty-two years old. We have so much time." struck me deeper than I thought it would. So when I head that Scriber was publishing Marina's works posthumously, I knew that I had to read the book.

And wow. Marina may have been young, but her talent was not. In both her essays and her stories, she has a unique voice that not only pulls you in, but leaves you thinking afterwords. Her stories are about corners of life you would never have thought to visit, and make you wonder what made her think to write about something like that. Her essays range from funny to frank to heartbreakingly candid, and I know that if Marina had lived, the words she would have written would have changed the world. It saddens me that we will never read those words.

This book is both moving, and stunning. I hope that as you read this book, at no matter what age, you remember that you have so much time, but never ever take that time for granted.

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