I sit on a different floor than most of my teammates at work. It’s just always been that way, and very rarely do people from the floor everyone else is on, venture down to my floor. But a few weeks ago, one of my colleagues showed up at my desk and handed me this book. At first glance, it looked hipstery and perhaps about fashion? My coworker said regardless of the backstory of this book, she thinks it sounds like something I would love. I was intrigued. Then she went into said backstory.. and tragedy was revealed.
Marina Keegan was a 22-year-old with a future that many of us could only dream of. She had just graduated from Yale, and had a job waiting for her at none other than The New Yorker. She had a loving boyfriend, a great relationship with her family, professors in university who saw her brilliance and encouraged her. Then five days after graduating, Marina died in a car accident.
Though the loss of such a young and budding life is extremely sad, and once you read this collection of stories and essays, you will see just how full of life she truly was, BUT that is not why this book is wonderful. The Opposite of Loneliness is an anthem for my generation: the generation of bright-eyed and terrified twenty-somethings leaving the comfort of school and adolescence to try our hand in the big world. But one thing that Marina had that so many of us don’t, was optimism. And I loved her every word for that reason.
This collection is divided into two sections: Fiction and Non Fiction, and opens with the essay the title of the book came from. “The Opposite of Loneliness” is a graduate address that Mariana wrote to her peers about the adventures they were about to begin, the opportunities that lay before them, and the encouragement to embrace their eagerness to live a life they are proud of. In those four pages, it is already clear that this girl has talent, but you are in for a treat.
Her Fiction was stunning. For someone so young, Marina wrote like a veteran. She writes characters who are old and wrinkled, soldiers in Afghanistan, students who learn to see their parents as vulnerable human beings. If someone handed you a print out of one of these stories, I can guarantee you wouldn’t have guessed they were written by such a young woman. I was so impressed and so taken with her every word.
Her Non Fiction is just was great. One story tells the life of her car: how it came to be hers when her grandmother passed, and how bits of her filled up that car until it was as much a part of her as her own arm. She writes about having celiac disease and the way it affected her life, and her relationship with her mother. She writes a profile of an exterminator who is over the top, loud, and secretly sensitive.
I don’t read short stories, and when I do, I rarely enjoy them, but this book blew me away. A few pages in, I forgot that Marina was gone, and that this was all I would ever have of hers to read. I forgot my fear of reading this with an overhang of tragedy, skewing my feelings due to my sadness over the situation. All I could think about was, wow, this is amazing.
I can’t wait to give this book to people I know; to inspire them to be as rambunctious and unapologetic as Marina was, and to read the gorgeous words of a young artist, gone too soon.