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The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion (2005-10-04) Hardcover – 1814
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This book is a personal account of grief and the myriad of ways it showed up in Didion's life in the first year following the death of her husband, John, and around the life-threatening illnesses that concurrently and subsequently imperiled the life of their daughter, Quintana, during that same year. Dedicated to John and Quintana, it is by turns searing and poignant.
True to the spirit of grief, there are some very funny moments and there are some very painful moments. Near the end of the book, Didion writes: "I realize as I write this that I do not want to finish this account." She laments for all of us who mourn the death of a loved one.
For more information on loss and change, grief and bereavement, go to LeaningIntoLoss.com.
I won't 'review' this book, as it's been done by far better writers than myself. I would say that anyone touched by grief will find familiar ground here (not comfort; this book is FAR from comforting).
I'll read and reread it for many years to come.
The book was worth reading, though not as good as I had hoped. She does pose "the question of self-pity", yet seems to answer that what seems to be self pity is the normal state of mind of the one who is "left behind" by the deceased. Also emphasized is that the state of mind of one who is grieving is anything but normal, but rather a sort of deranged condition from which, however, one is expected to recover. I gleaned a few insights, and a desire to read more about this topic, as well as to write about my own loss as my mother has recently passed away. Yet the book left me rather unsatisfied in terms of conclusions learned from the experience. I do not wonder that John had expressed their lack of "having fun" to her some months before the event, and I am glad that he did convince her to go to France so that he could see Paris for "one last time" the previous month. I am saddened to learn that Quintana did eventually die in the year after the book's publication. I will probably read some other works by this author, and I will be curious to know what she will write next.
A memoir, this book examines grief and love in the face of death. Published two years after the death of Joan Didion's husband, Didion describes her life in the immediate aftermath. With her daughter in the hospital, Didion didn't neither another tragedy. However, as she repeats often, “Life changes fast. Life changes in the instant. You sit down to dinner and life as you know it ends.” Her daughter is between life and death, but when death comes it takes her husband instead.
Although about grief, this book isn't maudlin. Didion writes with an almost cool distance that allows the reader to see how disconnected she felt from her life. Everything is the facts as she remembers them, seen through her attempts to understand the change that life has thrust at her. She researches death and presents us her findings. She wracks her memories of the event and presents us only with her subjective point of view. Everywhere the memory of John and of their life together haunts her, and so haunts us.
Simple, honest, and brave are the words I would use to describe this book. Didion bares herself to us in one of the hardest times of her life and I don't think many would have the guts to do that. The writing isn't showy, but boiled down to the bare necessities and strung together in a way that echoes the honesty of the events being told.
I haven't lived through enough grief to truly understand what Didion feels, but this book allows me to sympathize. And I hope that it also gives me tools that will allow me to approach grief with dignity when the time comes.
Didion says that she never wrote John letters because they were always together. This book is a love letter that could only be written now that they are apart.