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.
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.
Tell us about yourself!
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.
A heartbreaking, breathtaking and inspiring journey into the very depths of this beautiful person's heart and soul. A profoundly brave and powerful story of loss and living. Thank you Ms Didion
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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