Winner of the Goodreads Choice Awards Non-Fiction 2014, ‘The Opposite of Loneliness’ by Marina Keegan is a collection of essays and stories that captures the universal hopes and struggles as one prepares to face the ‘real’ world after graduation. On her graduation day Marina had said, “I will live for love and the rest will take care of itself.” Her love for and fascination with life is evident in each one of the 18 essays and stories in this collection.
Marina died five days after graduating magna cum laude from Yale in May 2012. Her boyfriend, who was neither intoxicated nor speeding, fell asleep at the wheel. The car hit a guardrail and rolled over twice, killing Marina but leaving the driver unhurt. Her parents, Tracy and Kevin Keegan, wanted the state to drop the charges of vehicular homicide against her boyfriend because ‘it would break Marina’s heart’. When he went to court, they stood by his side and the case was dismissed.
Marina’s dream—after hearing novelist Mark Helprin say, during a master’s tea at Yale, that it was virtually impossible to make a living as a writer today—was to become a writer and ‘stop the death of literature’. Published posthumously with the joint effort of her professors, friends, and parents, The Opposite of Loneliness is all that the world will ever get to hear from Marina. It’s unfortunate because Marina, it seems, was a gifted writer. Her essays and stories draw you in and you find yourself tuning the rest of the world out.
What made the book compelling, for me, was definitely her writing that’s laced with humor. She doesn’t hesitate to make fun of herself and she does so with an enviable ease. In a way that helps you try and accept your own idiosyncrasies a little more. Her writing is also emotional and contemplative, thus forcing you to look at things from different perspectives. An important underlying message of much of her work is that it’s never too late to live a life with joy and meaning. We could all use a little reminder every now and then, couldn’t we?
The Opposite of Loneliness might not be writing at its finest but Marina’s voice is fresh and unpretentious. She wasn’t trying to sound a certain way or writing to impress. Reading her makes you feel she loved to write and so she did with reckless abandon. That makes it even harder to read her but you know, deep down, that hers is a book you will be recommending and revisiting as often as you can.