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Joanne

San Mateo, CA, USA | Member Since 2004

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  • The Year of Magical Thinking

    • UNABRIDGED (5 hrs and 5 mins)
    • By Joan Didion
    • Narrated By Barbara Caruso
    Overall
    (1301)
    Performance
    (432)
    Story
    (435)

    "Life changes fast....You sit down to dinner and life as you know it ends." These were among the first words Joan Didion wrote in January 2004. Her daughter was lying unconscious in an intensive care unit, a victim of pneumonia and septic shock. Her husband, John Gregory Dunne, was dead. The night before New Year's Eve, while they were sitting down to dinner, he suffered a massive and fatal coronary. The two had lived and worked side by side for nearly 40 years.

    Darwin8u says: "Sharp, sometimes funny, but always clear & precise"
    "Some good material, and a lot of repetition"
    Overall

    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.

    15 of 20 people found this review helpful

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