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"The Opposite of Loneliness": Because We're All About Joy This Holiday Season

Updated on December 18, 2015
To a star that burned out way too quickly. Rest in peace, Marina
To a star that burned out way too quickly. Rest in peace, Marina

"The Opposite of Loneliness" collection by Marina Keegan (RIP) is heartbreaking, funny, slightly depressing, and confusing. What better way to usher in the holidays, am I right? So let's bust out that spiked eggnog and break this bad boy down.

Mmmm-mmm. Just take a big whiff of all that FAILURE
Mmmm-mmm. Just take a big whiff of all that FAILURE

Journey Into The Dark Wood

As this year draws to a close, I say we focus on the positives and not on how you failed at all your 2015 diet resolutions. (Oh, chocolate cake, you filthy seductress.) After all, there's still time to do things that will make you feel smarter than all your friends. Like taking a look at this week's newest Thanksreading book review, which has been plucked straight from the Goodreads Choice Awards of 2014.

A Boiling Pot

Last week we took a ride into the world of Stephen King. While today's book features no blood, murders, or cars with major attitude, it does sport a variety of quarter-life crises and disappointed hopes. Enter, The Opposite of Loneliness.

This juicy little collection of essays and stories by Marian Keegan is the crystallization of one young woman's struggle to find her own unique voice while simultaneously (and perhaps unknowingly?) communicating the difficulties of her generation. Though laden with a grim realism about the struggles of love, life, and relationships, Keegan's writing is interlaced with themes of hope and new beginnings.

The author's style is brisk, descriptive, and (fair warning) maddeningly vague. It falls into the literary tradition of Hemingway, namely, the idea that that more is less. Because of this, getting through Keegan's stories can take some patience, and even if you do stick with it to the end, you are still left with a feeling of incompleteness. Her endings are not wrapped up in neat and shiny bows; they cut off abruptly or simply phase away, leaving us to untangle the knots ourselves.

A certain palpable sense of breathlessness leaves traces all throughout The Opposite of Loneliness, for it is ultimately an exploration of the universal quest for higher meaning. This ongoing theme connects each piece within the anthology, like a single thread running through a string of pearls.

The Voice Of A Generation

When I was done with this book, I was left with a lot of emotions churning around in my gut. On one end, I felt as if my mid-twenties struggles had been adequately caught on page. I was feeling liberated, hopeful, and optimistic. But I also felt confused, unsure, and scared of the future. Though it was nice to know I wasn't alone in my struggle to find my place in the world, it was also disconcerting to consider the possibility that there wasn't anything to find. If so many people had the same problem as I did, maybe this was all there was to life: cubicles, spreadsheets, and water coolers.

That's precisely why this book has become a best-selling sensation.

The Opposite of Loneliness is the cry of the post-grad twenty-somethings who leave school and suddenly realize they don't know how to do anything else. It captures their desire to find a unique place in the world while addressing the hardships of finding and building a long-lasting career. In doing so, Keegan also looks at a much deeper issue: the temporariness of human existence and how it has influenced the mindset of this particular generation.

Most young people today regard life not as a gift from the deliberate and intelligent hand of a Creator (as in the more religious times of the past), but as a series of precious temporaries given by the happenings of an indifferent natural world. This makes the young adult generation an incurably restless set. When they look up at the stars and realize that they are just one more pinprick in that vast blackness, they feel tiny, as if nothing they do will really matter. But according to Keegan, this feeling of tininess is what can spur us to chase after excellence.

“The notion that it's too late to do anything is comical,” she tells her fellow Yale graduates in her final address. “It's hilarious. We're graduating from college. We're so young. We can't, we MUST not lose this sense of possibility because in the end, it's all we have.” (“The Opposite of Loneliness,” 1-3)

In Conclusion

The Opposite of Loneliness propels you into the new year with some interesting food for thought. It's totally worth checking out if you have a moment between failed workout routines and half-hearted diet resolutions. It serves up many thought-provoking themes on a platter of prose that brims with with optimism, vitality, and—most importantly—a sense of hope for what the future may bring.

Oh, and by the way...

P.S. I'm currently reading "Outlander" for the first time so expect that awesomeness any day. I just heard that these books were a big deal. 8 years after the fact. Yay for not paying attention to literary trends, am I right? WOO HOO!

A reader suggested it to me in lieu of my post about sex scenes in books (which you can read here and I figured, what the hell?

In the meantime, happy holidays, hubbies.

This is apparently the actor they got to play the main hero, Jamie. If sex appeal was a disease, we'd all by dead. DAMN.
This is apparently the actor they got to play the main hero, Jamie. If sex appeal was a disease, we'd all by dead. DAMN.

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