National Book Award, Nonfiction, 2005"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.
The weeks and months that followed "cut loose any fixed idea I had about death, about illness, about probability and luck...about marriage and children and memory...about the shallowness of sanity, about life itself."
In The Year of Magical Thinking, Didion explores with electric honesty and passion a private yet universal experience. Her portrait of a marriage, and a life, in good times and bad, will speak directly to anyone who has ever loved a husband, a wife, or a child.
Listen to Joan Didion's full-hour interview with Charlie Rose.
©2005 Joan Didion; (P)2005 HighBridge Company
"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....This is an indispensable addition to Didion's body of work and a lyrical, disciplined entry in the annals of mourning literature." (Publishers Weekly)
"The Year of Magical Thinking is not a downer. On the contrary. Though the material is literally terrible, the writing is exhilarating and what unfolds resembles an adventure narrative." (The New York Times)
This book is a tremendous effort to express the complicated grief process that one person went through after the sudden death of their spouse. It is touching, sometimes distressing, and sometimes confusing, much like the grief process itself.
I felt compelled to write a review since so many reviews here seem to criticism Ms. Didion for not grieving in the correct way or not expressing her grief in the right way. This is a memoir. It is about her life and her experienes. It doesn't follow any rules and I believe that is the point. She is letting you experience her grief experience. She's not talking about everyone's grief experience or how you should grieve.
Overall it was a very interesting and insightful read. If you don't enjoy memiors, however, you might not enjoy the style. But this is an excellent book.
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).
This book is a poor excuse for a memoir. The story is too fragmented to follow while I drive on the highway in the car. Don't even bother listening to this in the City. There is too much scatter brained thinking in this one, and any of the intresting parts get trumped by her in-ability to stay to any point for more than 2 minutes.
Simply, a brilliantly clear, wrenching account. Deeply moving, never sentimental or manipulative, Didion uses exact descriptions, exact language to tell her story. Not a word is out of place. It's also one of the best read books. The narrator is fantastic.
I have always like the tight, terse and outsider view that Didion has brought to everything she rights about and worried about how this would work out. Nothing to worry about since the narration is wonderful and Didion's words, emotions and bittersweet experiences are tenderly and accurately reflected. It is amazing to "read" and better to savor. Wish I had a "rewind" button.
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.
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I guess I liked the fact that Ms. Didion wished to share her deep love of her husband in such a touching way. I felt for her pain but at the same time I just wasn't moved. I feel bad about that because she suffered through not only the loss of her husband, but the illness of her beloved daughter. I just feel there was too much repetition....
I suppose I would recommend this book to friends. I'm not sure if it would be one of my top ten listens to recommend though....I just can't put my finger on why....I'll be wondering if other readers feel the same sense of not caring for this book or if it's just me.
Convincing, compassionate and enjoyable.
There were many moments that moved me....not to tears, but moved me to hoping that this would be over, and soon.
I thought I would love this book. I just didn't. It's not that it wasn't believable. I was very believable. I just wanted it to end. I don't experience that often with my Audible listens. This time I did.
I deeply admire Joan Didion, but I don't quite understand how this book garnered as much attention and praise as it did. It is a memoir about how she survived the tragic death of her husband and the devastating illness (and later death) of her daughter. She survived it, it seems, by writing this diary - by writing her way into and out of it. Particularly lovely is her tribute to her late husband, her description of their life together and her life without him. She does well at capturing some of the moments of disorientation and loneliness that came with all of this. It is not, however, her most literary nor her most intelligent of works; alternatively, it is not a guide to grieving or recovering from loss.
A wonderful narrator takes us through the terrible year of tragedies for Joan Didion, who beautifully highlights what it means to live and experience human emotions. This was a book I could not stop, and indeed listened to several chapters over again to only to enjoy the haunting pace and voice of Ms Didion. Exceptional work.
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