The Year of Magical Thinking

ISBN: 140004314X
ISBN 13: 9781400043149
By: Joan Didion

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About this book

From one of America's iconic writers, a stunning book of electric honesty and passion. Joan Didion explores an intensely personal yet universal experience: a portrait of a marriage -- and a life, in good times and bad -- that will speak to anyone who has ever loved a husband or wife or child.

Reader's Thoughts

Tucker

Didion breaks a cardinal rule of story-writing, which is to have something happen. The only events that occur in this book are the instantaneous cardiac arrest of her husband and an illness that puts her daughter on life support. Even these, due to Didion's weaving, do not feel like ordinary events in a plotline. She tells pieces of the story over and over again through the various angles of memory, as though her grief had been journalled and later assembled as a mosaic instead of in chronological order.The value of the book is as a series of personal and occasionally psycho-academic (but well-integrated) reflections on grief."The Year of Magical Thinking" refers to her denial that her husband is gone for good. Although she does not believe in the resurrection of Jesus, nevertheless, she says, she feels certain her husband will come back. In the second half of the book, there is an interesting exploration of the Greek play Alcestis, in which a king begs his family to die in his place. Only his wife volunteers to die, and when Charon comes to ferry her away, the king is racked with guilt. The queen eventually returns from the dead. Didion asks: "If the dead were truly to come back, what would they come back knowing? Could we face them, we who allowed them to die?" There is a meditation on the idea of luck: whether, if one has been lucky in the past, it is appropriate to consider oneself unlucky later on when something bad happens, and whether one should expect that the playing field will eventually be leveled."All year," Didion writes, "I had been keeping time by last year's calendar. What were we doing on this day last year?" She is shocked when she crosses the one-year mark, and realizes she has over a year's worth of memories that do not include her husband. (I would add that this behavior of "keeping time by last year's calendar" is not unique to the death of a loved one; it can happen with any life event that carries a sense of loss, such as a breakup.) Didion's moving conclusion reflects on the tsunami in 2004 that would have eradicated the islands where she once vacationed with her husband. "I know why we try to keep the dead alive. We try to keep them alive in order to keep them with us. I also know that if we are to live ourselves, there comes a point at which we must relinquish the dead...Let them become the photograph on the table. Let them become the name on the trust accounts. Let go of them in the water."

Kate

What has stayed with me most from this book is her idea of "the shallowness of sanity." We move through life as though our days aren't numbered; death or tragedy shocks us into another mental state. "Sanity" involves a kind of denial of mortality.

Jonathan

I'd heard good things from this book, from an acclaimed author I had never even heard of who bears a small resemblance to Joni Mitchell and Sissy Spacek. This is all, of course, inconsequential.I picked this book up when I was running away from my then boyfriend and on a midnight plane to Dublin.It wasn't until three weeks later, whilst in London, that I started it. I find this all very important because it gives me a feel for what is written in the book that sort of reflected what was going on in my life at the time. I had not lost a husband but there were certainly changes going on in my life. This is an important aspect to consider, that we can feel grief in other ways besides death, that loneliness is there at any possible time and that our life shapes and moves forward in various ways.The entire book is a meditation on death, dying, relationships, family and change. One night, Joan and her husband are about to sit down to dinner. Their daughter is very ill in hospital. When very suddenly, Joan's husband has a fatal heart attack.The rest of a book is a musing on their relationship together, what it feels like to be a widow and have a life without a life-long companion. What death means, especially sudden death. There are pieces on travelling, famil, love, motherhood. There are even fragments about what it means to be a writer, how you cope with grief as a writer, what do you do when the emotional level is so high you cannot even bring yourself to write.It is a wonderful slim volume written in a direct and crisp prose that I recommend highly to read alone. I don't see it as a holiday book to read beside the beach, or something to read whilst anyone is talking. Each word and feeling must be savoured. Read it in the middle of the night or the early morning, with the window open to hear the slow hum of the night-time, with a good strong mug of coffee whilst you're curled up on the sofa or in bed.It's the kind of book that will leave you feeling beaten up afterwards, amidst the direct formation of words there are many great ideas and cutting emotions, just make sure you have the emotional energy for it.

Alan

An undeniable, biographically verified tragedy will carry a book a long way. But I felt her approach to sorrow to be one of control, to be an instance of a particularly American kind problem-solving, rather than of serious solitary reflection and attempted acceptance. I also found the cloistered, rarefied, routinized luxury of her life and world to be rather spoiled, despite its grave horrors. Though I enjoyed the stark realism, I might have enjoyed a less iron face than the one with which she, by necessity, turned to the events of her life. I felt she might have sat with the tragedy longer before writing it and that this would have allowed it more life, and would have given her the distance necessary to no longer need to so control the death. The book was very smart, often insightful, always heartbreaking, and undeniably real--this was its power.

Tung

A National Book Award-winner, this book is Didion’s personal memoir of the year following the death of her husband, writer John Dunne. Didion lays out her thought processes and emotions and struggle for normalcy after Dunne passes away suddenly one night at the dinner table from a heart problem. I didn’t find this book nearly as good as the hype would lead me to believe. The NY Times review called it an "indelible portrait of loss and grief." The NY Review of Books said "I can’t imagine dying without this book." For me, it earned none of the preceding words of praise. Books on grief have been done much better, including one referenced multiple times throughout Didion’s book (A Grief Observed by CS Lewis is far superior). I am absolutely convinced that the only reason Didion’s book received such notably positive press was because she and her husband were good friends with all these reviewers and the rest of the literary community, having bonded with these people at dinner parties on the Upper East Side in smoking jackets with martinis and cigars; Didion and Dunne were part of the NYC writing establishment Didion’s prose throughout is tight and reminiscent of early Vonnegut (his self-referencing style, not his humor), but there is an emotional distance in her writing. She quotes numerous studies on grief throughout the book, having spent the months following the tragedy not only grieving but studying grief. But the research studies don’t serve to illuminate her grief; they serve to distance us from her grief. Secondly, Didion lived a very upper-crust NY life, and the way she describes the events she will miss doing (dining at Morton’s with her husband, walking on the Jardin du Ranelagh in Paris with her husband, skipping the Monet exhibit to dine at Conti’s with her husband) further distances me from Didion’s grief. Personally, I don’t find rich people experiencing tragedy as tragic as I would find average people experiencing tragedy. I found this too emotionally detached to recommend it.

Kylee Hill

I read this book because it got a lot of attention and it "seemed" like I "should". The whole time I was reading it, I had a uncontrollable reoccurring thought: "This rich bitch. Rich bitch. Rich bitch." It seemed funny to me after a while. It was hard to read the most sincere sections with an open mind while this was happening.There is some rumination in this book about the infinite sense of loss surrounding the death of a vital person. There is also a lot of writing about the anger and resentment of a rich person with a lot of connections and power being totally astonished that untimely death can and did happen to a member of the cultural elite. She seems to have an inkling of self-awareness on this point, but it's never explored. She discusses her experience as a smart, rich woman losing the most important person in her life. She discusses doing nothing for months, barely leaving her house, the worry of friends, and name-drops the elite people who cared or were involved with her during that time. She mentions the obituary appearing in the New York Times.She doesn't mention having any thoughts about the plight of people in similar positions without enough money to stop working, or have professional mental health care, or people without the comfort of having done absolutely everything possible with medical care to prolong their husband's life. She doesn't have to mention any of these things, because that is simply not her life or what happened to her; but I don't have to find it compelling, or an accurate portrayal of loss and death for me or most people. This book is not that.Another reoccurring thought I had while reading: "This may be an important historical document for future generations when wealthy people in first-world areas have found ways to preserve themselves beyond death. This may be an important document of the horrors of the early 21st century for rich people.""This may be an important anthropological document for aliens assessing our society in the wake of The Singularity or their takeover of our planet or just our own slow decline and eventual apocalyptic extinction as a result of global warming/energy crisis/biological warfare or some other fucking shit that could feasibly happen in the next 200 years."

steffie

I didn't go gaga over this book. While I like Didion's writing, I just didn't care much for her or her oddly privileged lifestyle. I realize that wealth doesn't except you from grief, but I felt this book was needlessly full of details that did nothing but drive a wedge between me and this woman. A free ticket on the Concorde? Why do Joan Didion and John Gregory Dunne, of all people, have a free ticket on the Concorde? Dominick Dunne, maybe. Because he's totally about Power and Privilege.One passage that almost made me throw this book out the window was about how she and her husband would attempt financial "Planning" that involved resigning themselves to "eating" the $50,000 they'd sunk into a home in Brentwood Park because no one would buy their home in Malibu. Those poor Dunnes. Can you imagine being unable to unload a Malibu beach house? The indignity. Reminds me of the time I was stuck without a suitable escort for the Kennedy Center Honors. Anyway, they escape from this life-or-death situation by jetting off to a Hawaiian resort. So carefree! So irresponsible! While she seems to include these details in an attempt to adoringly shake her head at their sometimes clueless approach to adulthood, I just couldn't relate, and I didn't find it charming. Sorry, Joan. You are not people I know or will ever know.And now Vanessa Redgrave is doing Didion on Broadway, and that is just too weird.Perhaps the reason I am giving this two stars is because I liked all the medical/hospital stuff. I could appreciate Didion's helplessness around medical professionals who speak that jargon and approach life and death from purely clinical perspectives. And it was interesting to see how Didion tried to do this, too, but then realized that no amount of money or social connections could make her life more comfortable. Oh, but at least she has those memories of Indonesia.

TK421

I am not the type of person that cries at funerals. I find crying at a funeral as constructive as trying to stop a raging river with a few paper towels and a bag of sand, nothing is achieved. Find me not callous, for I am sensitive to the recently departed and their family. It's just that...I don't know...I know there is nothing that can be done to bring back that person. Rereading the above really makes me sound like an ass so let me try it another way: death is something we all have to accept; my acceptance of death comes more easily than it does for others. Take Didion for example. Here we have a very educated woman who foggily ambles through the year following her husband's (John Gregory Dunne) death. John died of a severe infarction. He had a long history of heart issues. He knew this was the way he was going to die. But even with all this evidence, his personal testimony, Didion finds the death of her husband shocking, as if she were blindsided. (I’ll grant that no one wants to be in mid-conversation with someone when they die.) Now stop cursing me, let me continue. John’s death in-and-of-itself does not make this story compelling. Quintana, John and Didion’s daughter, and her sickness is what makes this story compelling. You see, we are all going to die. Husbands will have to bury wives, and wives will have to bury husbands. That’s life. But none of us ever want to experience having to bury a child. And the way that Didion structures her story allows her to think she is grieving for her husband, when, in reality, she is telling their story to mask the fact that she is scared shitless about losing her daughter. You see, Didion does a great job of recounting the great love her and John shared for almost forty years. But some of the details that she gives the reader really only show that we (the readers) will never know what it was like to live a life with John. We’ll never know what it feels like to get a free ticket on the Concorde; we’ll never know what it’s like to get free tickets from the NBA commissioner; basically, we’ll never know what it was like to live a life of affluence and prestige. But, even without ever knowing this aspect of her life, we will all more than likely at some point fear for our child, which is the bridge that connects us to Didion. During the chaotic (brilliant narration, stylistic technique) timelines and temporal displacements via vortexes, Didion is unable to mask the fear she has of losing her only child. Unfortunately, Didion also realizes that this year of magical thinking is less about her husband and more about her daughter and closes the door for us readers over and over again just as we are about to get a real true glimpse into Didion’s grief. You see, Didion was able to deal with her husband’s death; what she was unable to deal with was the possibility of losing her child. But even with the absence of these concrete feelings, and the insertion of insights from countless psychiatrists and research papers about grief, the story works. Didion understands that she might be able to hide from the reader, allow for what information is passed-along to us, as long as she is able to stay one step in front of her feelings. Fortunately for us, grief and confusion and frustration and anger and misery know no boundaries. What is never said on the written page is said with infinite detail in the between spaces of events and conversations within the story. The year of which Didion chronicles is truly heart-wrenching; I’m pretty sure I would not be able to cope as well as she did. But it is also full of promise, redemptions, and hope. This is a beautiful and tragic story, one that is sure to become a classic concerning death and the grieving process.HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

Jessica

For me this book was all about the tension between my hateful, all-consuming envy of Joan Didion for being a rich, brilliant, famous, cool, successful writer with the perfect life, and her obvious point that none of that stuff really matters.I mean, okay, it is way better to stay at the Beverly Wilshire hotel while your only daughter's bruised and swollen brain and dying body are scalpeled apart by the best trauma doctors in the country. This is better than, say, having your daughter get only treatment Medicaid allows and visiting the city hospital when you finish the second shift at your dead-end job, which you have to go to, even though you're insane with grief and terror, because you're one paycheck away from homelessness. As people on here seem fond of noting, yeah, it is way better to have money during such events, and really it's probably nicer to be Joan Didion, rather than somebody else, in most situations, especially ones like these.But it still sucks. A lot.Being Joan Didion and having all her giant heaps of money, brains, and talent, is not currency with much value in the places she travels to in this book, which is part of what makes it such an interesting read, instead of just a well-written and deeply personal description of grief, which, of course, it also is.

Becky

Heartrending. Such a terrible year of loss and pain and withdrawal from the world, only to have it followed by the loss of her daughter from acute pancreatitis shortly after this book was published.I really think that this is a defining work of grief in our time, much like Tennyson’s In Memoriam was for his. Through her grasps at knowledge and structure you can see a woman that is absolutely flailing suddenly in her world.I understand that people can find this work hard to relate to. For starters my own greed gets in the way of my connecting to Didion’s grief. To hear the name drops of Milan, and Paris, getaway bungalows in Hawaii, it’s hard for me to focus on the loss, when I am thinking “I wish I could work at home with my husband, I wish I could go to Paris, I wish I could choose where I’d stay for Thanksgiving and Christmas.” But MY envy of her “more” should not affect my perception of her loss. She still lost something and even though it’s part of the human condition, it’s still terrible. That’s definitely something for me to reflect on personally.Other times it’s hard to connect because she is so obviously trying to distance herself from her pain, especially in order to be there for her daughter. This is a normal stage of grief, and I felt it tragic. I feel that we are not kind to the bereaved in our culture. We are much more removed from death than we were just a few decades ago. Death does not permeate our lives the way it did. Seeing the grieving reminds us that it’s still there, lurking, and so we are impatient with their time to heal and their emotion. We are very Spartan in this regard, but it does do ourselves or the hurt, any favors. Someday we will all be in that same boat, having lost, and we should not isolate ourselves.I also think this would be a great read for those that work in medical occupations. I really felt her struggle to understand what the staff were trying to tell her, both on a factual and a metaphysical level. I think this could be a great read for people that are the deliverers of news to have a reminder what its like on the other side of the fence.

Kim

You might think of me as a cynic. If you’re being kind, that is. I’m the one that says ’Seriously?’ when being told of some tragic event--like someone would actually make up the horrific thing. I’m the one that views the whole process of death--the telling, the grieving, the service of any kind, the ’after’-- as playing out like I’m in a soap opera bubble. Which camera should I look into when I break down again? Strike one against me.Strike Two: I've never been much of a fan of Joan Didion... I think it began in college…being forced to read Why I Write and On Keeping a Notebook. I didn’t enjoy being told, essay-like, how I should go about writing. It’s not my thing. That didn’t help that urge to rebel that goes along with college either. My Didion backlash was further proven when Up Close and Personal came out. Wait, you want to add Jessica Savitch to the list? Awww. Hell no. It just wasn’t happening. Strike Three (??): Maurice bought this for me a few Christmases ago. I winced, like I usually did when receiving a book from him. Must I relive the college debacle? I can’t just NOT read it, because he WILL grill me on it. Buck up, Kim… read the damn thing already. This was 5 years ago and I just recently found it in the back of the bookshelf. I did end up reading it then… and I thanked Maurice time and again for giving me such a gift. Because, that’s what it truly was. Words can hold such extraordinary power.. So, here’s an enigma: Can cynics really believe in magical thinking? What is magical thinking anyway? I mean… yeah, I’ve read the Psychology Today articles, I’ve gone to freedictionary.com. Is it something that can actually be described or do you need to experience to fully get it? Talk to me. See, because now I’m either going crazy or I’m seeing the signs. I’m remembering in distorted ways… did that really happen or is my head just trying to make me believe… am I replaying the events because I’m looking for clues?Maurice is dead. I can type that. I can be matter-of-fact about it via keyboard. Hell, I can put it in a damn book review. But, you get me to actually SAY the words and I’m using the ol’ ‘Maurice has passed’, ‘Maurice is gone’, anything but the ‘D’ word. Like it may make it less real. “In the midst of life we are in death.” Not just some awesome Smiths lyrics… but a common graveside prayer--and the rest? “Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust.” Still looking for clues. As I’m reading the first few pages of TYOMT again, I’m struck at how similar the process is:“ Later I realized that I must have repeated the details of what happened to everyone who came to the house in those first weeks, all those friends and relatives who brought food and made drinks and laid out plates on the dining room table for however many people were around at lunch or dinner time, all those who picked up the plates and froze the leftovers and ran the dishwasher and filled our (I could not yet think ‘my’) otherwise empty house even after I had gone into the bedroom (our bedroom, the one in which still lay on a sofa a faded terrycloth XL robe bought in the 1970s at Richard Carroll in Beverly Hills) and shut the door. Those moments when I was abruptly overtaken by exhaustion are what I remember most clearly about the first days and weeks. I have no memory of telling anyone the details, but I must have done so, because everyone seemed to know them.”This book is full of this type of sameness. Two peas in a pod, Joan and I. I may not be keeping his shoes because when he comes home he might need them (like Joan) but I’m still hanging on to that bottle of Moxie in the fridge…I’m still wondering if him telling me that morning that he wanted to hear my voice because it soothed him was really him telling me that I should have… what? What could I have done? Joan has other tragedies… memories that stretch out to before I was born. She is insightful in such creative, tenacious, concise ways that sometimes I just want to curse her for bringing me there… for making me believe and start to question every action/memory/event of the last 20 years looking for the damn signs… because they were there, right? In the midst of life we are in death. Don’t fucking forget that.

Adrianna

Originally, I read this book as a way to cope with a lot of family deaths that occurred during a difficult time in my life. It was recommended by a user of the Yahoo Cafe Libri Group, but it didn't live up to my expectations. Perhaps the disconnection lay in the fact that Didion suffered from the loss of a spouse whereas my grief was more distant: my cousin, grandmother, uncle, and great uncle all died in relative succession of each other. I also perceive the grieving process as being unique to each individual, and I found that Didion's coping mechanism was not like mine. She found solace in research whereas I felt numb and stopped reading and writing for a long time. I was so unable to control my emotions that I didn't attend all the funerals. Despite grieving differently, I did discover some aspects that Didion and I shared: 1) depression 2) the inability to manage the everyday life, mine surfaced when I lost focus of my educational studies. Unfortunately, these similarities did not endear the book to me. However, I would still recommend The Year of Magical Thinking to any reader regardless of whether one has experienced a close death purely because it is a well-written and interesting autobiography. The entire scope of the book follows the year of Didion's life after the death of her husband and the health complications that are endangering the life of her only child. It's not always a chronological examination because Didion's thoughts are fluid as they are constantly influenced by memories, items, and events that will take the reader to another place and time in her life (I liken these instances as memory triggers). Stylistically, the writing often seems like stream of consciousness, which actually makes the autobiography stand out as an unique representation of one person's life. Contributing to this style, the setting skips from New York, which is where her husband dies, to memories in Hawaii, Paris, and both past and present events in Los Angeles. Despite being difficult to follow the progression of time, Didion's grief is palpable through her memory associations. The purpose for writing The Year of Magical Thinking is for author Joan Didion to analyze and understand her grief. Because it is such a personal story, her development and progression is often internalized and was difficult for a reader to relate to, especially if your thought process works differently. Despite that fact, she effectively develops her own state of mind and effectively explores the personalities of the two most important people in her life: a) her husband (John) b) her daughter (Quintana). She defines her love for both of them and grapples with grief, depression, fear, life, change, and, most importantly, acceptance. She explores the nuisances of language and uses medical and psychological research to maintain control, even though she knows that she can't control or change the past with her knowledge. Yet, it is the research that provides the comfort she desperately longs for. Also, the exploration of passages from her own writing as well as her husband's provide much needed connections between life and death.One of the most disappointing aspects of the book is the lack of photos from Didion's life. True, she paints an emotional and philosophical portrait of the people she loves, but the physical descriptions are lacking, as if her husband was no longer substantial because he was already deceased while Quintana was fast approaching the same result. There is one image on the back cover which is misleading because it was taken in 1976 even though she is writing about the year from December 2003 to December 2004. Originally, I thought her daughter was a child in the autobiography, but it is revealed that she is a recently married adult. Still, the photo has sentimental value and is analyzed by Didion in the book (her daughter and husband are off to the left while she is looking at them from the right side of the patio).Despite the fact that it is an interesting look at Didion's most painful year in her life, I could not relate and thus, my rating dropped considerably. I came looking for consolation and respite from my own painful memories. What I found was an interesting autobiography, but nothing that touched my soul. I was not lead to the path of healing. The research and psychological musings, although interesting, are not the way I cope with grief. I intensely cry at weird moments of the day with an inability to express my sadness. I feel an empty spot in my heart and soul that will never be filled no matter how many years go by. Didion's reliance on outside sources of comfort, such as research, made her appear cold and detached from the entire process. I wanted less studying and more raw emotions, similar to mine own. The disconnection between the author and I was not the most disappointing aspect of this autobiography. The ending was the worst-- it was rushed and almost cliche. I never fully understood how she let go of the pain associated with her husband's death or how the year of her grief became The Year of Magical Thinking (and the title of her book). I attribute this disappointment to the fact that it is a very intimately written autobiography for Joan Didion, not the reader. Even understanding this, I felt cheated. I was left with the same debilitating grief whereas Didion found closure. For this reason, I truly only recommend this book to those looking for a well-written autobiography. Readers who have experienced the death of a loved one should be weary about finding consolation between these pages.

Kate

Joan Didion's daughter Quintana fell gravely ill and was hospitalized with a serious infection. She was placed in a medical coma and put on life support. Only weeks later, Joan's husband, John Dunne, was speaking with her from their living room after visiting their daughter in the hospital, stopped mid-sentence and keeled over dead on the floor of a massive coronary. Four weeks later, Quintana pulled through and revived, but only two months after that, she collapsed from a massive brain hematoma.Joan Didion documented this year in this book, which I think I heard about on NPR or somewhere, I'm not entirely sure. I know you're all going to hate me for kicking the widow when she's down, but this book was a lot less than I expected. I got through it, but I really thought it would be more about her feelings. Instead, Didion did a lot of research on grief and puts many of her findings in the book. She spends a lot of time analyzing the way things are and trying to figure out if she's behaving in a way that seems "normal" for your "average widow."I read a review on Amazon.com that calls Joan Didion's writing as "cool" and perhaps lacking emotion, and I felt that way about this book. The most moving passage in the whole book was one in which she states that she realized she was in denial when she cleaned out her husband's closets, but couldn't get rid of his shoes because he would need them when he got back. I thought to myself, "well, now we're getting somewhere", but perhaps she didn't want to share where those painful thoughts led, because there was no indication that she picked the shoes up and flung them at the walls while sobbing in rage. And I wanted her to. I wanted her to be angry at God and everyone for putting her in this terrible situation with her husband's death and her daughter's serious illnesses. But instead, she seemed rather detached. Maybe she didn't want to share those feelings, but if that were so, she shouldn't have written a book purporting to be about that very topic. I found this book to be tremendously disappointing.

noisy penguin

I hated this book. It is the reason I instituted my "100 pages" policy (if it's not promising 100 pages in, I will no longer waste my time on it). So within the 100 pages I did read, all I got from Didion was that she and her husband used to live a fabulous life and they know a lot of famous people. She spoke of the '60s as a time when "everyone" was flying from LA to San Francisco for dinner. Um, no, actually, "everyone" wasn't doing that then and they're not doing it now. Instead of saying "our friend so and so gave the eulogy at my husband's funeral," she said, "The great essayist David Halberstam." What does that add to the story? I found only brief spots of actual grief for Didion's husband and daughter, but they weren't enough to overpower my loathing for the author and her self-importance.

Don

It has been said that divorce is second in psychological trauma only to the loss of a spouse. Personally, I think that’s bullshit; loss of a child must trump all. In any case, Ms. Didion is of the opinion that loss through divorce is mitigated by the ex-spouses corporeal presence on this fine earth; i.e. they’re still alive and well and accessible. Indeed ex-spouses are a present and constant reminder of failure. They are a walking, talking embodiment of the life you thought you would have forever; gone now, replaced with something you never dared imagine. In one chapter she remembers being 22 years old and scoffing at an author’s grief, a lack of understanding that she presently laments and freely recognizes as youth; refreshing introspection the depths of which few are truly capable. As moved as I was by her introspections and admissions, I was a bit surprised by her inaccurate portrayal of grief through divorce. Joan points out that as a widower she found she irrationally blamed herself for her husbands death. The mighty difference between between losing a spouse to death and divorce is that in divorce, others wonder what you did wrong. How did he screw up? Was he violent? A bad father? Disloyal? Unfaithful? Yes, not only do some wonder, but you imagine that everyone does. Every time you lose your temper, say something stupid, experience a lapse in judgement someone might be thinking, “That must be why she left him.” And someone one probably is. This is the first piece I’ve read by the prolific Joan Didion and I will go back for more. In spite of my disagreements with her assumption on in-experienced grief, I truly enjoy caring enough about a piece of literature to re-evaluate my feelings on such a present subject. The raw candor in which she expresses what are undoubtedly the most painful moments of her life was startlingly eloquent. I can’t wait to see what she has done with fiction.

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