The Opposite of Loneliness collects the essays and short stories of Marina Keegan, writer, journalist, and playwright, who attended Yale back in the early 2010s. Keegan was an avid writer and was set to work at The New Yorker after she graduated from college. Her future was bright with the promise of published works in the future.
Unfortunately, less than a week after graduation, Keegan was in a fatal car accident. Her boyfriend was driving both of them to Cape Cod and fell asleep at the wheel. Unfortunately, she didn’t survive the accident. With her family and friends distraught, there was one clear way to honor her legacy as a writer: publish her inspirational work. With the help of her previous Yale professor, Anne Fadiman, Keegan’s book of short pieces was brought to life.
Every aspect of her life was a way of answering that question: how do you find meaning in your life?Fadiman in The New Yorker
Keegan’s book is a beautiful compilation of stories and essays from a young and inspired mind that will make you pause and ponder what life is truly all about. She writes about relationships with ex-boyfriends, her time at Yale, her loving and complicated family, and the nuance that existed within her friendships.
For me, this book was a game changer. One of my college roommates actually gave me this book when we were sophomores. She prefaced that the author had passed away shortly after her college graduation and all I could think was…well, this is dark. But, after reading it, I realized why this was such an important book for young adults. It helps you put life into perspective, even during some of the most difficult times. The book really does try and answer the question “How do you find the meaning of life?”
Keegan’s pieces all show her intense intellect and emotional intelligence. She was always true to herself through her work and it shows. That’s what makes this book so unique.
Even though it was published posthumously, you can see exactly who Marina is as a person through all of it.
Reading this book as a college sophomore put everything into perspective for me. I didn’t need to have it all figured out — I just needed to be. This is something I have struggled with my entire life. Just “being” has never come naturally to me. As a generally anxious person, that seemed like the last thing on the planet I could ever achieve. But when you read a collection of essays by a college student who passed away shortly after graduation? It helps you zoom out. We don’t need to take it all so seriously. It’s something I’m still learning. It’s something I think we are all still learning.
What I definitely do know at this moment: The Opposite of Loneliness serves as a beautiful reminder of what life is all about. We all have insecurities, anxieties, stress, and chaos. It’s about finding what parts of your life are worth living for. Keegan’s legacy really lives throughout this book and it gives me chills anytime I read it. I highly recommend this book, especially when you’re feeling a little lost.
The book begins with the titular essay, “The Opposite of Loneliness,” which states, “We don’t have a word for the opposite of loneliness, but if we did, I could say that’s what I want in life.” I have never read a truer sentence.
This book is an excellent read throughout the year, a perfect gift for anyone in your life (check out this list of great books as gifts), and will give you a sense of peace, which I think is what all of us strive toward. It’s one of those books you need to re-read every few years. It’s not a one-time read and you’ll learn something new every time you pick it up.