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Book Review: The Opposite of Loneliness

The Opposite of Loneliness, book by Marina Keegan

Originally published in Main Street Magazine, Fall issue 2014

“Do you wanna leave soon? No, I want enough time to be in love with everything. And I cry because everything is so beautiful and so short.”

In 2012, Marina Keegan was graduating from Yale University, about to take on a long-awaited position at The New Yorker. Five days after graduation, on her way to her parents’ house on Cape Cod with her boyfriend, Keegan was killed in a car accident.

Friends, family, classmates and faculty were left devastated. How was a community supposed to make sense of a life ended so soon and unfairly? Words seemed to be the only way to let Keegan’s voice ring. And undoubtedly the way she would have wanted it.

“The Opposite of Loneliness” is compiled by Keegan’s parents and teachers, and is a pinnacle of all of her creative and written work over the course of her college career. The anthology of Keegan’s words consists of poetry, fiction and nonfiction.

In some ways, one would think Keegan’s stories are simply a reminder of her death, her finite body of work sealed forever, with the reader knowing she will never write again. But instead, Keegan’s words radiate the golden promise of a young generation, wisdom beyond her years and a sweet, raw honesty that causes striking twinges of realization. Her writing style is eloquent and mosaic, yet so accessible and relatable. Keegan emphasizes the beauty of cusping adulthood—the decisions that must be made, the self-discovery that must be endured and the characters and experiences along the way.

Fiction stories include a girl dealing with the death of her long-time hook up buddy. Keegan also juxtaposes the differences between a college party girl and her suburban mother, as well as examines the sentimentality in the numbers of lost luggage at airports each year.

In her nonfiction, Keegan examines her gluten-free lifestyle, mortality and global warming. She also writes about her endless love for her first car.

The title piece, which was originally published in Yale’s daily newspaper, is a savory and sentimental ode to the university in which Keegan called home for four years.

“It’s not quite love and it’s not quite community; it’s just this feeling that there are people, an abundance of people, who are in this together. Who are on your team. When the check is paid and you stay at the table. When it’s four a.m. and no one goes to bed. That night with the guitar. That night we can’t remember. That time we did, we went, we saw, we laughed, we felt.”

The book emphasizes where the focus of death should lie. Rather than seeing what could have been, see what was. Marina was an extraordinarily talented young woman who provided hope for a generation of creators.

“We don’t have a word for the opposite of loneliness, but if we did, I’d say that’s how I feel at Yale. How I feel right now. Here. With all of you. In love, impressed, humbled, scared.”

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