USATODAY.COM
USATODAY.COM

★★★★★

She graduated magna cum laude from Yale in May 2012. She was a talented actress and dedicated political activist. She served as president of the Yale College Democrats and had a promising literary career ahead of her.

On the precipice of her future, Marina Keegan’s life came to an end. She was 22 years old, and in an instant, she was gone.

Marina died in a car accident five days after graduation. She was on her way home to celebrate her dad’s birthday when her boyfriend lost control of their vehicle.

Soon after Marina’s death, her final essay for the Yale Daily News, “The Opposite of Loneliness,” went viral. In this piece, she reminisces about the college community she loves and beseeches her peers to make a difference in the world. With each phrase, her youthful optimism and anxious excitement sound so raw. Simultaneously, she is realistic and mature, appreciating that this chapter of her life is coming to a close. That Marina never had the chance to chase the dreams or experience the womanhood she writes about makes her words that much more touching and relevant. In death, Marina is forever young, forever tragic and forever hopeful.

The posthumous publication of a collection of her work bears the same name as her most famous essay. Compiled by one of Marina’s professors, Anne Fadiman, one of her friends, Vivian Yee, and Marina’s family, “The Opposite of Loneliness” is a testament to the vitality of youth and showcases the young writer’s pure talent. This collection of Marina’s work demonstrates a literary voice beyond her years and emotional depth that surpasses simple ink printed upon a page. With each narrative, Keegan powerfully pulls readers into her world.

In her fiction, Marina frequently writes from the perspective of female characters and addresses the implications of death. In “Cold Pastoral,” heartbreak and confusion punch readers in the gut, as a college girl copes with the sudden death of her boyfriend. Through “Reading Aloud,” she explores an elderly lady’s unusual friendship with a blind young man. In “Hail, Full of Grace,” Marina captures a woman’s now-strained relationship with a former high school sweetheart. “Challenger Deep” probes the despair of a group trapped in an incapacitated submarine as they slowly sink to the ocean floor.

The second half of the collection is comprised of her nonfiction writing. Particularly striking is how Marina perfectly evokes emotions and nostalgia. Her precise descriptions of sights and sounds provide a breath of fresh air. In “Stability in Motion,” Marina memorializes her beloved 1990 Toyota Camry. In “Against the Grain,” she recounts her struggle with Celiac disease and how it affects her relationship with her mother. In the seemingly mundane, Marina makes readers feel her embarrassment, her jubilance and her pride. Few writers can maneuver emotions so deftly, but Marina worked tirelessly to master the art. “Even Artichokes Have Doubts” reveals the malady of finance and consulting, which Marina characterizes as a plague that poisons the true dreams of young graduates. And finally, in “Song for the Special,” she contemplates what her enduring contribution to the world will be.

In all, “The Opposite of Loneliness” reflects Marina’s profound optimism and encourages readers to rediscover beauty in the world. With wit, humor and charm, Marina captivates her readers. Although we are left with only a glimpse of her talent, it is hard to not fall in love with the way she sees the world.

 

Matthew De Silva is a junior in the School of Foreign Service.

One Comment

  1. Awesome review.
    I’m very interested to read this book.

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