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The Year of Magical Thinking
by Joan Didion

Overview - What We're Reading Now
"Anyone who has experienced a great loss can connect to the book. It goes through all the steps of grief with humor and candor."
Debbie Steinweg - Corporate Office, Birmingham, AL
From one of America’s iconic writers, a stunning book of electric honesty and passion.
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More About The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion
 
 
 
Overview
What We're Reading Now
"Anyone who has experienced a great loss can connect to the book. It goes through all the steps of grief with humor and candor."
Debbie Steinweg - Corporate Office, Birmingham, AL
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.

Several days before Christmas 2003, John Gregory Dunne and Joan Didion saw their only daughter, Quintana, fall ill with what seemed at first flu, then pneumonia, then complete septic shock. She was put into an induced coma and placed on life support. Days later–the night before New Year’s Eve–the Dunnes were just sitting down to dinner after visiting the hospital when John Gregory Dunne suffered a massive and fatal coronary. In a second, this close, symbiotic partnership of forty years was over. Four weeks later, their daughter pulled through. Two months after that, arriving at LAX, she collapsed and underwent six hours of brain surgery at UCLA Medical Center to relieve a massive hematoma.

This powerful book is Didion’s attempt to make sense of the “weeks and then months that cut loose any fixed idea I ever had about death, about illness . . . about marriage and children and memory . . . about the shallowness of sanity, about life itself.”

 
Details
  • ISBN-13: 9781400043149
  • ISBN-10: 140004314X
  • Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf
  • Publish Date: October 2005
  • Page Count: 227


Related Categories

Books > Biography & Autobiography > Literary
Books > Biography & Autobiography > Personal Memoirs
Books > Biography & Autobiography > Women

 
BookPage Reviews

Didion's year of grief

After 40 years of marriage, writer Joan Didion did not have a single letter from her husband, writer John Gregory Dunne. This was because, with rare exceptions, the pair was together 24 hours a day. They worked together in California hotel rooms on movie scripts or down the hall from one another in their New York apartment on their respective essays and novels. "I could not count the times during an average day when something would come up that I needed to tell him," Didion writes. Returning home alone from the hospital where she has learned Dunne is dead—he collapsed and died as the couple was sitting down to dinner on December 30, 2003—Didion remembers "thinking that I needed to discuss this with John."

The Year of Magical Thinking is Didion's slender, intensely personal, deeply moving and stylistically beautiful account of the year following her husband's death. It was a year in which Didion struggled with the belief that she could have and should have done something to prevent her husband's death ("I was thinking as small children think, as if my thoughts or wishes had the power to reverse the narrative, change the outcome."). It was a year in which she was constantly swept into a vortex of memories of the couple's former life. It was a year in which grief came in recursive, paralyzing waves. It was also a year in which the couple's only child, daughter Quintana Roo, was twice in a coma and not expected to live. [Tragically, Quintana died in late August, just weeks before Didion's book was published.]

At the hospital on the night Dunne died, the social worker sent to be with Didion refers to her as "a pretty cool customer." Didion is surely one of the best prose stylists writing today, and her account is almost clinically precise. She is unsparing in her examination of the "derangement" she experienced after her husband's death and during her daughter's illness ("So profound was the isolation in which I was then operating that it did not immediately occur to me that for the mother of a patient to show up at the hospital wearing blue cotton scrubs could only be viewed as a suspicious violation of boundaries."). But The Year of Magical Thinking is anything but "cool." Instead, the book reverberates with passion and even, occasionally, ironic humor.

"Grief turns out to be a place none of us know until we reach it," Didion writes. In The Year of Magical Thinking, she offers a powerful, personally revealing description of that place.

 
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