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The Year of Magical Thinking Hardcover – Oct. 4 2005

4.4 out of 5 stars 969 ratings

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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.

From Booklist

*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

Customer reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5
969 customer ratings
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Reviewed in Canada on July 18, 2017
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Reviewed in Canada on May 3, 2016
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Top international reviews

wombat
1.0 out of 5 stars Didion is a self-centered narcissist
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on September 6, 2018
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Rose Lois Presley
5.0 out of 5 stars it’s not your conventional love story, ‘The Year of Magical Thinking’ is the ...
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on August 21, 2016
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aarnald amundssen
4.0 out of 5 stars SELF-CENTRED NARCISSISM ASIDE ...
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on February 22, 2019
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Tulipano
5.0 out of 5 stars Well written
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on July 28, 2017
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Erasmus
3.0 out of 5 stars I don't know what to make of this
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on December 7, 2018
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Janie U
3.0 out of 5 stars I didn't feel involved with the narrative but could be good for some people.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on January 17, 2019
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Sarah
5.0 out of 5 stars Magical Thinking
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on October 24, 2019
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Crusty
3.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on February 19, 2020
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Kim
5.0 out of 5 stars The most wonderful read for anyone who has suffered a Great loss of true love.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on June 13, 2014
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Kindle Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully written account of grief and loss
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on October 14, 2019
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HelenMary
5.0 out of 5 stars One of those books you will remember for ever
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on April 5, 2020
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Miiil
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on January 23, 2018
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Ann Hamilton
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful read!
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on January 16, 2018
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Ms. Mary Fletcher
5.0 out of 5 stars Grief intensely felt.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on July 25, 2018
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Diogenes
3.0 out of 5 stars Strangely Unsatisfying
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on December 13, 2018
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