Synopses & Reviews
In this powerful and unforgettable memoir, award-winning writer Amy Butcher examines the shattering consequences of failing a friend when she felt he needed one most. Four weeks before their college graduation, twenty-one-year-old Kevin Schaeffer walked Amy Butcher to her home in their college town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Hours after parting ways with Amy, he fatally stabbed his ex-girlfriend, Emily Silverstein. While he was awaiting trial, psychiatrists concluded that he had suffered an acute psychotic break. Although severely affected by Kevins crime, Amy remained devoted to him as a friend, believing that his actions were the direct result of his untreated illness. Over time, she became obsesseddetermined to discover the narrative that explained what Kevin had done. The tragedy deeply shook her concept of reality, disrupted her sense of right and wrong, and dismantled every conceivable notion shed established about herself and her relation to the world. Eventually realizing that she would never have the answers, or find personal peace, unless she went after it herself, Amy returned to Gettysburgthe first time in three years since graduationto sift through hundred of pages of public records: mental health evaluations, detectives notes, inventories of evidence, search warrants, testimonies, and even Kevins own confession.
Visiting Hours is Amy Butchers deeply personal, heart-wrenching exploration of how trauma affects memory and the way a friendship changes and often strengthens through seemingly insurmountable challenges. Ultimately, its a testament to the bonds we share with others and the profound resilience and strength of the human spirit.
"In this eloquent, somber memoir about the death of her mother and grieving aftermath, poet and journalist O'Rourke (Halflife) ponders the eternal human question: how do we live with the knowledge that we will one day die? O'Rourke's mother died of metastatic colorectal cancer on Christmas day 2008; the headmaster of a Westport, Conn., private school, she was only 55 years old, and left a stricken husband, two sons, and daughter O'Rourke, the eldest sibling. O'Rourke had shuttled back and forth from her life in Brooklyn and then job at Slate over the preceding year to care for her increasingly debilitated mother. The two were extremely close, and the shock of her mother's illness devastated the whole family (the author married her longtime boyfriend shortly after the Stage 4 diagnosis, then separated just as quickly). Over the last months, O'Rourke was bracing herself, 'preparing' for her mother's death, by reading everything she could during the dizzying rounds of doctors' and hospital visits, until the family could take their mother home to die in a heavily medicated peace. Anxious by nature, secretive, often emotionally brittle, O'Rourke grew acutely sensitive to her mother's changing states over the last months, desperate for a sign of her mother's love to carry her through the months of bereavement. O'Rourke heals herself in this pensive, cerebral work, moving from intense anguish and nostalgia to finding solace in dreams, sex, and the comforting words of other authors. (Apr.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright PWxyz LLC)
"Meghan O'Rourke, a celebrated poet and critic, writes prose as if she was born to it first. Her memoir The Long Goodbye
is emotionally acute, strikingly empathetic, thorough and unstinting intellectually, and of course elegantly wrought. But it's above all a useful book, for life-the good bits and the sad ones, too."
"Meghan O'Rourke has written a beautiful memoir about her loss of a truly irreplaceable mother-yes, it is sad, it is in fact heartrending, but it is many things more: courageous, inspiring, wonderfully intelligent and informed, and an intimate portrait of an American family as well."
-Joyce Carol Oates
"Meghan O'Rourke is an extraordinary writer, and she offers precious gifts to readers in this powerful memoir. There is the gift of entering her family, with its vibrant characters and culture. There is the gift of her profound insights into the experience of grief, its grip and the diverse ways we struggle to reenter a world where joy is felt. But most of all, there is her gift of showing us how love prevails after even the most devastating loss."
-Jerome Groopman, M.D., Recanati Professor, Harvard Medical School, and author of The Anatomy of Hope and How Doctors Think
“A gripping and poignant memoir.” -Kirkus
“There are horrors in Visiting Hours—some of them emotional, some incomprehensibly not. But what rises above it all in this exhilaratingly honest and brutal debut is what might be the books most disturbingly beautiful element: its tribute to memory, its testament of love, and its wide-eyed inquiry into just how long those two things really last.” —John DAgata, author of About a Mountain
“Amy Butcher asks the two hardest questions: what do we mean to ourselves and what do we mean to each other? She asks in innocence and responds with hard earned experience and wisdom to share. You will need to give Visiting Hours away and buy another for yourself so you have someone to talk to about it. You will keep an eye out for this writer and what she will do next. It is not right that she is so smart, so talented and so young all at the same time. Yes, hers is a debut to envy and here we are at the very beginning.” -Robert Olmstead, author of Coal Black Horse
“Visiting Hours is the culmination of Amy Butchers many talents: beautifully dense yet accessible prose rendered with complete honesty. She will make you question everyone youve ever thought youve known.” —Mary Miller, author of The Last Days of California
"Amy Butcher has written an incredible portrait of trauma. In crisp, beautiful pose, Butcher revisits an extraordinary and terrible night that will come to haunt and trouble her forever. What is the nature of traumatic memory? Whose sadness do we have claim to? What can be done when people we love do terrible things? Butcher's generous and honest meditation on how traumatic memory can shape ordinary lives will make you a better and more empathetic person." --Jen Percy, author of Demon Camp
What is it like to mourn today, in a culture that has largely set aside rituals that acknowledge grief? After her mother died of cancer at the age of fifty-five, Meghan O’Rourke found that nothing had prepared her for the intensity of her sorrow. She began to create a record of her interior life as a mourner, trying to capture the paradox of grief—its monumental agony and microscopic intimacies—an endeavor that ultimately bloomed into a profound look at how caring for her mother during her illness changed and strengthened their bond. With lyricism and unswerving candor, The Long Goodbye captures the fleeting moments of joy that make up a life and the way memory can lead us out of the jagged darkness of loss. Effortlessly blending research and reflection, the personal and the universal, it is a love letter from a daughter to a mother that will touch any reader who has felt the powerful ties of familial love.
With echoes of Darin Strausss Half a Life and Cheryl Strayeds Wild comes a beautifully written, riveting memoir that examines the complexities of friendship in the aftermath of a tragedy.
About the Author
Amy Butchers work has appeared in The New York Times, The New York Times Magazine, The Paris Review online, Tin House online, The Iowa Review, Salon, Gulf Coast, Guernica and Brevity, among others. She earned her MFA from the University of Iowa and is the recipient of awards and grants from the Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts, the Stanley Foundation for International Research, the Academy of American Poets, and Colgate Universitys Olive B. OConnor Creative Writing Fellowship. She is the recipient of the 2014 Iowa Review award in nonfiction and teaches writing at Ohio Wesleyan University.