The Year of Magical Thinking Paperback – Feb 13 2007
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Many will greet this taut, clear-eyed memoir of grief as a long-awaited return to the terrain of Didion's venerated, increasingly rare personal essays. The author of Slouching Towards Bethlehem and 11 other works chronicles the year following the death of her husband, fellow writer John Gregory Dunne, from a massive heart attack on December 30, 2003, while the couple's only daughter, Quintana, lay unconscious in a nearby hospital suffering from pneumonia and septic shock. Dunne and Didion had lived and worked side by side for nearly 40 years, and Dunne's death propelled Didion into a state she calls "magical thinking." "We might expect that we will be prostrate, inconsolable, crazy with loss," she writes. "We do not expect to be literally crazy, cool customers who believe that their husband is about to return and need his shoes." Didion's mourning follows a traditional arc—she describes just how precisely it cleaves to the medical descriptions of grief—but her elegant rendition of its stages leads to hard-won insight, particularly into the aftereffects of marriage. "Marriage is not only time: it is also, paradoxically, the denial of time. For forty years I saw myself through John's eyes. I did not age." In a sense, all of Didion's fiction, with its themes of loss and bereavement, served as preparation for the writing of this memoir, and there is occasionally a curious hint of repetition, despite the immediacy and intimacy of the subject matter. Still, this is an indispensable addition to Didion's body of work and a lyrical, disciplined entry in the annals of mourning literature.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
*Starred Review* Didion--a master essayist, great American novelist, and astute political observer--uses autobiography as a vehicle for tonic inquiries into both the self and society. In Where I Was From (2003), she meshed family history with an examination of America's romance with the West. Here, in her most personal and generous book to date, she chronicles a year of grief with her signature blend of intellectual rigor and deep feeling. The ordeal began on Christmas 2003 when Didion and her husband, the writer John Gregory Dunne, learn that their daughter, Quintana Roo, is in intensive care with severe pneumonia and septic shock. Five grim days later, Dunne and Didion come home from the hospital, sit down to dinner, and Dunne suffers "a sudden massive coronary event" and dies. Married for 40 years and sharing a passion for literature, they were inordinately close. But Didion could not give herself over to grief: Quintana's health went from bad to worse as she developed a life-threatening hematoma on her brain. She survived, and Didion had the wherewithal to cope: "In times of trouble, I had been trained since childhood, read, learn, work it up, go the literature. Information was control." So she researches grief, schools herself in her daughter's medical conditions, and monitors the flux of flashbacks and fears that strobe through her mind. Didion describes with compelling precision exactly how grief feels, and how it impairs rational thought and triggers "magical thinking." The result is a remarkably lucid and ennobling anatomy of grief, matched by a penetrating tribute to marriage, motherhood, and love. Donna Seaman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Also recommending: Song Of Cy by Katlyn Stewart- I bought the E-Book
Phillipe Aries' The Hour of Our Death to remind the reader you too. You too believe in the repetition of your daily rituals with your loved ones that you are exempt from the finger of the Reaper. You too, as I did, Didion seems to say, refuse to acknowledge the passing of time, the leaving of life in every day details: the way we hold a fork, our eyes absorbing the exact slant of afternoon light, the sight of our beloved's living breathing face.
Along with this more subtle message, Didion shares a deep insight: grief is not the same as mourning. In her experience grief settled in the shattered moments following the heart attack that took her writing partner, husband and best friend within seconds. That grief, as she reports it, numbed and in a sense preserved her until she might open to the less merciful mourning, in which the daily truth of the loss, its depth and height, its width across her now empty heart expanded.
No one serves language like Didion. Alone in her vast talent now, with Dunne her husband gone, still she shines the way for the rest of us, writers, people, humans who share the only truth: we too will die someday.
Best-selling American journalist, author and movie-maker Joan Didion has spent decades living and working with her husband, author John Dunne. In a horrifying twist of fate, Joan faces life without John, who one night simply dies at the diningroom table while her daughter Quintana lay in a coma. The Year of Magical Thinking takes us through Didion's grief process as she tries to carry on without John and with Quintana facing several serious health crises. It is a must read for anyone who is facing multiple losses in their lives. I found it enlightening, spiritual and as cozy as a blanket.
Laura's Review (Hers):
I enjoyed this book, as much as a book about grief can be enjoyed. Ms. Didion skillfully articulated her feelings and thoughts after the sudden death of her husband and during her daughter's illness. Having recently lost a brother I was able to connect deeply with many of her thoughts, particularly the magical thinking she describes. It's not often that I read a book and think "oh my gosh, that's EXACTLY how I've felt" but this book did that for me. Ms. Didion helped me be able to articulate my own thoughts at times when I couldn't begin to articulate them myself.
I applaud Ms. Didion's willingness and ability to put herself out in public view in such a raw, vulnerable way. Death of a loved one is, I believe, a deeply personal experience and I can't imagine sharing my innermost vulnerabilities and thought processes with the public. Perhaps doing so was cathartic for Ms. Didion; I don't know. I do know, however, that it takes a great deal of courage to do so.
Some reviewers have criticized the book for its representation of the privileged life Ms. Didion lives. While I agree that there are numerous references to events and experiences that many people will never have, I don't fault her for that. She wrote this book from her own perspective, from her own viewpoint, and as such she presented her life honestly. I respect a person who is not apologetic for having had such opportunities.
I recommend this book. While it is not a happy read, it is evocative and beautifully written.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
I found this difficult to read, as the author very graphically recounts her grief and mourning upon the death of her husband.Published 7 months ago by Mrs. Colleen M. Paul
This book is excellent for someone who is living a bereavement even if the language is a little literary.Published 13 months ago by Amazon Customer
Such a sad story, but it is so well written, almost poetically. It offered a very deep insight on life and aging. A treasure.Published on July 10 2013 by Melanie
and found it helpful. In fact, I recommended it to other friends facing the loss of a loved one. Joan Didion has done the world a service by writing this book.Published on March 16 2013 by H C Elder