This book tackles the experience of loss in a thoughtful way. The author focuses on her personal experience, but at times draws from the broader literature to seek universality in her experience. The book has some wonderful moments, and some thought-provoking insights. However, the book also has some very tedious sections. As I approached the last two hours of the book, I decided I did not want to finish it. I found myself listening to various podcasts rather than slog through the rest of the book.
One thing that struck me was how rarified a life the author had. Of course, she was a successful author, which guarantees she is not in the mainstream of American life. But there were a few references that exemplified the lack of commonality between her life and mine. For example, she found an old Emily Post book on etiquette, and discussed the value of the guidance given to those whose friends had been bereaved: bring bland foods, don't let the bereaved be alone, how to handle calling hours, etc. This advice was appropriate for friends of an older widow who did not have a job, financial problems, or significant family responsibilities. The situation for most of those bereaved at the time Emily Post wrote her advice was different. Most families did not have bereavement leave, widowhood often brought financial ruin, and the large number of farming families still had to care for their land. Didion's reference to this bit of upper-class etiquette is fitting, because Didion did not have to work, and quite frankly could allow herself a year to fret about the experience of widowhood.
So... I enjoyed parts of the book, but not enough to finish it. I would have liked the book to be about 3 hours shorter, which could have been achieved with tighter editing in the written material. I don't dis-recommend it, but there are many books I've enjoyed a lot more this year.
It's interesting to read the reviews of this book because they are so polarized. Obviously, you either love this book or you really deplore it. I am one who deplored it. I could not even finish listening to it. And being an intensely frugal person, I TRIED to listen to it so as not to waste my money--but the yawn factor outweighed the waste factor exponentially.
I have lost people I loved and have gone through the grieving process--but I still couldn't relate to this book. Expounding every minute detail that transpired after a loss isn't scintillating reading material. It's belly-button-lint-picking--and that's not worth my time or my money.
Addicted to audiobooks & podcasts. 5 Stars=I Loved It, 4 Stars=Enjoyed it Thoroughly, 3=Kinda Good, 2=Bad/Boring, 1=Complete Waste of Credit
I made it through 4 hours of this one before pulling out my earbuds in exasperation. I couldn't take the high-society cerebral musings and endless quoting of other writers and artists. I waited for something semi-interesting to happen but it never did and the narration wasn't enough to carry it alone. Don't waste a credit on this dud.
Faced with mindless duty, when an audio book player slips into a rear pocket and mini buds pop into ears, old is made new again.
The Year of Magical Thinking is an intimate memoir of death and being left behind. In life, Joan Didion and John Dunn were married, successful, professional writers. John Dunn dies of a heart attack in 2003. Didion beautifully describes her experience. Though Didion’s story is personal, it enlightens those left behind.
Didion infers life is a moment to moment existence. Everything can change in an instant. Can one prepare for change that occurs in an instant? Didion suggests not. Just do the best you can. Didion deals with this change in her life by ignoring death, coping with today’s crises, and remembering the details of her partner’s life. The details keep his existence alive. Memories of his better judgments help Didion make her own decisions about living.
Didion seems to conclude-what you believe is what is. Magical thinking or not, belief gets one through the trials of life. Belief makes those loved and lost an immortal part of you.
This work is a must-read for someone who is suffering from grief. It follows Joan Didion's (famous writer) year after her husband's (famous writer) sudden death which occurred in the midst of her daughter's sudden coma. Throughout her experiences we learn more about her life, which sounds simply glamorous and full of old Hollywood fun. The narrator was perfection and I can't imagine Ms. Didion herself having a more elegant voice or telling her own story with more emotion running through her intonation.
If you are not currently in the throws of grief, I might recommend just keeping this on your radar for when you, unfortunately and inevitably, are. Currently, I, thankfully, am not- but I am happy that I know this is out there for when I, unfortunately and inevitably, am. As someone who just wanted a good read from a good reader and a glimpse into an experience we all fear/anticipate/dread, I felt a bit disconnected from the text and imagine that it was intended for someone who can scream at their book (speaker): "This is EXACTLY how I feel!"
There were some gaps I wish had been further elaborated upon (e.g., casual reference to filing for divorce? current status of sick daughter?), but I need to remember that this is not a memoir of Ms. Didion's life; rather, this is a memoir of her grief over her lost husband. I understand she needed to mention some (or pieces of) of these life events to better explain the overall experience- still, I was shocked when the audible ended, feeling like I was still missing some pieces of the overall story. Which is, I'm sure, exactly as she feels!
This is an amazing book. You would think it would be depressing but its actually comforting, especially if you're dealing with something difficult yourself. The author lets you deep inside the workings of her mind creating a real intimacy that is rarely found in books, movies, even relationships. She is a great writer and this is a real treat. Its just a whole different way of perceiving the world around you, and how the mind works. I'd say this book is candy for people who really enjoy thinking! Intelligent, and heartfelt.
I listened to this in the year in which my best friend was kidnapped and murdered, my mother got sick and passed away, and my husband and I celebrated our 31st anniversary. And the year before, my husband had been seriously injured in a car accident. Thus, the book was, for me, cause for much reflection and more than a bit of catharsis. Very well written, as you would expect from Didion, and very movingly, if understatedly, narrated - in fact, moving in its understatedness, almost soothing. Life happens, death happens, the wheel goes round and round.
Not especially interesting or compelling. Actually rather boring for the most part. I don't really get why this book was on so many top 10 books of the year lists. Maybe there is something I am missing, because I couldn't relate to her issues at all. Lots of sad tales about her going back & forth from the hospital to the Beverly Willshire Hotel (boo hoo). Also she is so surprised her husband drops dead of a cardiac arrest after he has heart disease for 20 years and has a pacemaker in. Don't mean to be callous, but didn't you see this coming? Even the husband said he knew how he was going to die (heart attack).
The title of my review probably hints that I didn't really like it but I did give the book 4 stars because I found it really enjoyable. I just want to warn people who want their books to "climax" that this book doesn't do that. Some people want the characters to learn great life lessons and make huge changes and take big risks in their life and this book is not about that kind of thing, mostly because it is a memoir that tells a story about the grief process. People who have experienced the death of a dearly loved one will resonate with this book and people who have not experienced that kind of loss may not be able to relate. I personally loved it and found it deeply moving.
Grief has never been so cutting, truthful and eloquent as this book shows. Ms. Didion's account of the year after her husband's sudden death is an elegant, sentimental journey that those shed to light all those feelings of despair, loneliness and emptiness that a death of a dear one cause on the living.