The Opposite of Loneliness: Essays and Stories Review

Title: The Opposite of Loneliness: Essays and Stories

Author: Marina Keegan

Number of Pages: 240 pages

Date Published: April 8th 2014

Publishing Company: Scribner

Part of the Summary (All you need to know):

An affecting and hope-filled posthumous collection of essays and stories from the talented young Yale graduate whose title essay captured the world’s attention in 2012 and turned her into an icon for her generation. Marina Keegan’s star was on the rise when she graduated magna cum laude from Yale in May 2012. She had a play that was to be produced at the New York International Fringe Festival and a job waiting for her at the New Yorker.

I want to give the rating first so you can read it now, unless you really want to read my review. The non-fiction section of this book is 5 out of 5; the fiction is 2 out of 5 so this averages to 3.5 out of 5 cups of tea. It’s amazing and even though I disliked the stories I still gave a high rating so this should say how much I enjoyed the book in general. Do not read the full summary. Read from the Opposite of Loneliness essay to the end of the book. Then decide if you loved the book or not. Finally, go and read the forewords and the acknowledgements. Bonus: I made a playlist for it. You’re welcome. 😉

3.5 out of 5 cups of tea


The perfect tea to drink while reading this (you can drink anything similar that you find but you can find it at Teavana):

Scarlet Jasmine Tea Blend is a novelty and it has this unique quality that perhaps describes the feeling of The Opposite of Loneliness. Something words can’t describe.

Here goes, the review:

 “Do you wanna leave soon? No, I want enough time to be in love with everything… And I cry because everything is so beautiful and so short.”

The opposite of loneliness is one of my test reads. As in, I’m trying to overstep my boundaries of the books I usually read. This is a non fiction and fiction novel. There are fiction short stories written by Marina, and some personal non fiction essays. As well, there is also the Opposite of Loneliness, the short essay that got Marina famous. The short stories are about various topics, your loved one dying, reading to a blind man, meeting your past love… The non fiction essays are Marina’s free opinions of the world. How humans treat each other, how her mother loves her, the universe… Overall, the book was refreshing and just what I needed. The characters, setting, and the writing style were really good and I’ll give more detailed reviews below.

The Opposite of Loneliness

This is the first essay in the book. The essay is about the feeling of not being lonely as the title suggests. Not quite being loved, or being happy. Just not lonely. There is no word for it and it is confusing as I thought more about it. The essay in a short two pages narrates how Marina develops this feeling at Yale. These little details about the feeling building up to the final open ending. There are no closed endings to life after all. The writing has a beautiful prose and Marina’s random thoughts bounce back and force, but I followed her perfectly in sync. The points always tied back together and it was very lovely.

It’s not quite love and it’s not quite community… Yale is full of tiny circles we pull around ourselves…”


In the fiction section of short stories, I only enjoyed one fiction story and it was the first one which captured my attention. Cold Pastoral follows Claire who’s friend, that’s a boy, not quite a lover, who has died. It’s complicated. Her feelings for him and his death are very mixed. The point of confusion in life is brought out really well. Not everything is black and white. Claire says she misses Brian but then she thinks this at a meet up after they find out Brian is dead.

“*Lauren was harrowed, drastically, and my cheeks were smooth and dry. I felt inadequate, cold; my relationship with Brian abruptly grounded.”

*Brian’s ex-girlfriend

I constantly felt mixed emotions. A character that can evoke emotions is realistic and I quite enjoy realistic characters.

The rest of the stories had eccentric characters. There’s a woman who takes off her clothes to read to a blind man.

On Mondays and Wednesdays at 4:30 P.M., Anna takes off her clothes and reads to Sam. Reads him cable box directions and instant-soup instructions, unpaid bills and pages from his textbook.”

The other characters include a girl who falls in love with a guy, and has family problems. I’m not scared to admit, it was quite boring. The characters have no exciting characteristics or anything that makes them seem human. They don’t do anything spontaneous that defines them. I also found, some settings and plots confusing. In Challenger Deep, I had no idea what was going on. I got so lost with following along…

“We had no concept of time and soon the darkness made it hard to remember what was real. I’d imagine tables that weren’t there…”

You might enjoy the stories, but I really just thought the characters were too strange to understand or too dull to bare. The plot was somewhat random at times and hard to understand as well. You can of course test the waters, you might even enjoy the stories I didn’t quite like.


The non-fiction essays all varied a lot. I really enjoyed them. In generally, I found Marina’s writing amazing, charismatic and it just grasped my attention in every single essay. I really understood her points and her last work ended the whole collection with power and strength.

Stability in Motion

When I first parked the Toyota in my drive, it was spotless, dull of gas, and equipped with my grandmother’s version of survival necessities. The glove compartment has a magnifying glass, three pens, and the registration in a little Ziploc bag.”

This piece is about Marina’s car that was passed down to her. This car has experienced so much with her and slowly evolved into part of her. I think the point Marina was trying to express is how we make our belongings part of us. We gain a connection with them, as silly as it sounds. The car has held her friends, heard her cry, and been the magical place where she kissed one of her boyfriends. This work is fun, realistic and very exciting to read!

Why We Care About Whales

“When the moon gets bored, it kills whales.”

The main point of this work is how humans treat each other. Marina uses her first hand experience viewing humans pitying the death of whales to lead into this point. How we pity animals when they die, but when millions of us starve, we somehow don’t care as much. Marina uses humor to send her point through very strongly and clearly. I loved this work a lot as well and by far one of my favourites!

Against the Grain

On my deathbed, I will instruct a nurse to bring me the following: a box of Oreos, a bag of Goldfish, a McDonald’s hamburger, an assortment of Dunkin’ Donuts, a chicken pot pie, a Hot Pocket, a large pepperoni pizza, a French crepe , and an ice-cold beer.”

This essay begins with this quote. It makes you think as usual, which I’ve come to learn about Marina’s writing. The whole essay is about how much parents care for their children. Marina talks about how she cannot eat many ingredients, and how growing up with that, (even after she went to Yale) her mother took all measures into hand so that she would have the food that satisfies all these conditions. Her mother is extremely loving, and the essay really brought out how much her mother cared, even when Marina found her too controlling or annoying or frustrating. It shows how our mothers are very loving as well. It was a very emotional work and it was very well written.

Putting the “Fun” Back in Eschatology

This work is very short and pretty much just talks about what Marina thinks about the universe and the future. The main point is just thinking about  what lies ahead of us. It is deep and yet somehow fun. Either way, it gets you thinking.

I kill for Money

The work is like an interview format. The main point is how people love their jobs. Specifically, Tommy who loves killing bugs for a living. His love for his job and never being ashamed is really lovely. As well, Tommy makes the most cheesy jokes and he laughs at them himself when nobody else does. His personality is just wonderful and optimistic. He’s so happy and I really respect him. Another moving work.

Even Artichokes Have Doubts

The whole point of this work was to talk about not doing what we want because of the fear that we might fail. Marina talks about her true disappointment that 25% of Yale graduates, with much to offer the world, end up doing banking or another job that they settle with, because they don’t have the drive to pursue what they really want. They are scared and this deeply upsets her. This was my least favourite out of all the non-fiction works, because it didn’t have much emotion in the writing.  I thought this could have been a very emotional work with the proper execution, which Marina usually has. However, Marina’s point is still very valid and worth reading.

The Art of Observation

This work follows Marina’s trip to India with a friend. The main point is Marina having lots of attention because of her skin colour and how she ends up feeling about this. This work finally had a new setting and was very novel to read. It was exciting and it was like a travel journal. I would definitely recommend this one.

Song for the Special

This final work was just spectacular! Short, crisp and about being in our world and making a name for ourselves. Trying to stand out, finding who we are, and feeling special. Putting this as the ending was genius (whoever did this, you are a genius)!


These works were fun and had meaning to them. Think while you read them. I only really enjoyed the non-fiction with exceptions mentioned before. It is definitely worth reading. I am recommending this to everyone because it can change your perspective on many events in your life and many you will experience. We can all take something from it, and that truly makes this book worthwhile.

“The middle of the universe is tonight, is here, and everything behind is a sunk cost.”


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