The Opposite of Loneliness by Marina Keegan

Reviewed by Katy Zignego (Library Staff)

Marina Keegan graduated from Yale University in May 2012 and died in a car accident five days later. Her stories and essays were collected into this volume by one of her professors and published with the blessing of her family. After reading the history of this book’s publication in the introduction, I was prepared to pity the author and appreciate her work for the glint of future brilliance her professor seemed to believe it held.

I was not prepared for what came next. The first story, ʺCold Pastoral,ʺ time-warped me back to college. It sounds cliche to say she writes like an adult looking back, but I’m not the writer she is, so I have to rely on cliches. Again and again throughout the stories section, Keegan achieves an authenticity of voice that astounded me. She writes an elderly woman, a civilian contractor in Iraq, and a doomed submarine crewman (in the gut-wrenching ʺChallenger Deepʺ) with a transparency Stephen King could envy.

The essays are not as polished as the stories, but they can still hold their own among the work of most essayists I have read. ʺWhy We Care About Whalesʺ in particular exemplifies the best type of essay: in which a specific event serves as a prism for exploring a larger theme. Marina Keegan was not just a gifted youngster with great things in her future. She was a powerful writer who had already produced world-class work–we just didn’t know it until she was gone.

Located in Adult Nonfiction (818.6 KEE)

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