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The Year of Magical Thinking | [Joan Didion]

The Year of Magical Thinking

"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.
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Publisher's Summary

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

What the Critics Say

  • 2005 Audie Award Nominee, Biography/Memoir
  • National Book Critics Circle Award Nominee, Autobiography, 2005

"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)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.7 (1303 )
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3.9 (433 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Zbodhimama San Diego, CA USA 12-06-11
    Zbodhimama San Diego, CA USA 12-06-11 Member Since 2001

    spiritabroad

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "A story about grieving and mourning"
    Would you say that listening to this book was time well-spent? Why or why not?

    This was a moving window into the mind of Joan Didion after having experienced two serious life crises, and anyone who has experienced crises piling upon one another is likely to see themselves - raw, vulnerable, and sometimes irrational - in her experience, and that was worthwhile. It is also, an interesting glimpse of the world of the American intelligensia. It is a good story that held my attention.


    Could you see The Year of Magical Thinking being made into a movie or a TV series? Who should the stars be?

    This could be a pretty good movie starring Meryl Streep as Didion.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Timothy Lake Worth, FL, United States 03-21-11
    Timothy Lake Worth, FL, United States 03-21-11 Member Since 2002
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    "The Year of Magical Thinking Review"

    Joan Didion is a wonderful writer and thinker. Her angst with dealing with the sudden loss of her soul-mate is an amazing insight into the thinking of such a creative soul. How strange to think we would need to subconsciously perhaps need to keep the shoes of our passed loved ones thinking they will return one day and need them. A truly remarkable expose' into the mind of a person progressing through the stages of grief and finally arriving at acceptance. I REALLY recommend this for anyone who must or has dealt with loss.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Emily Reinhold 01-09-10 Member Since 2009
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Well written and well read"

    I picked this novel because I had read a book by this author in college about El Salvador. I knew that she was a great writer and could effectively describe events in a way that would make the emotions of the situation clear. I found this to be true is this book as well. Also, once I listened to the short demo. offered at audbile.com I wanted to listen to more. I found it very intriguing how Didion felt and dealt with all of the tragedy that went on around her. I was comforted too by the strength that she felt in spite of all that tragedy. I recommend this book as an interesting look into the human psyche.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jean Amsterdam, NY, USA 02-19-07
    Jean Amsterdam, NY, USA 02-19-07 Member Since 2006
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    5
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    "insightful journey through mourning"

    This book is a "magical" book that breaks new ground of the subject of loss and mourning. Her account of the death of her husband, the immediate days afterward and the journey through life without John during the following year is realistic and hearfelt. She takes the reader with her, puts you in her shoes, and manages to do this without sappy imagery. She does it by making you truly feel the emptiness and irrationality that follows the death of someone close to you. Anyone who has ever experienced such a loss can relate; those who have not yet will get a true vision of what grief is all about.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Heather Richmond, CA, USA 07-14-06
    Heather Richmond, CA, USA 07-14-06
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    4
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    "Exceptionally well written"

    This book was nothing I expected. It was about the year after Joan's husband dies, but also about the concurrent severe illness of their adopted daughter. The book traces the feelings and thoughts of a person who is overwhelmed by too many bad things happening at once. Didion writes very well, which keeps one from straying from the content of the narrative. The reader reads well enough.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kim Algonquin, IL, United States 08-03-07
    Kim Algonquin, IL, United States 08-03-07 Member Since 2006
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    "left waiting for the magic"

    There is no magical thinking in this book. Of all of the many books I have read, this was the worst. I did not finish this one, though I gave a valiant effort so as not to be a quitter. I found it too cerebral to elicit emotion and too scatter-brained to make sense of the detail...all this rolled into one depressing story, of which I don't know (or care to know) the ending.

    6 of 13 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Wendy Matthews, NC, United States 02-19-10
    Wendy Matthews, NC, United States 02-19-10 Member Since 2008
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Sad but sweet story of life."

    wow. it's amazing what the human spirit can survive and live to tell about.

    1 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Phyllis United States 07-15-09
    Phyllis United States 07-15-09 Member Since 2008
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "A tough but meaningful listen..."

    This was not what I was expecting when my ipod rotated to the "next book" on my list. Having just experienced a sudden and unexpected death in my family only the day before, it was a struggle for the first 90 minutes. I decided since the book was short to finish it up while doing my housework. I'm glad I stuck it out. I think the book was cathartic for the author and it allowed me to think about how my family was dealing with death having lost three members in the past three months. If you are prepared for this type of book, or you are needing to not feel "alone" in your grief, then this is a recommendable listen.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Victoria Joppa, MD, USA 10-22-06
    Victoria Joppa, MD, USA 10-22-06
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Makes You Think"

    Wasn't sure what to expect with this book as I had picked it up at the bookstoore a few times and didn't buy it, but I was presently surprised. I really found myself thinking about what she went through with her husband dying and her daughter so sick. I wondered what I would do in the same situation and thought that just hearing her express some of her feelings (which I think I would feel) made me realize how special each day is with your loved ones and just how precious life is. "You sit down to dinner and life as you know it changes...."

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Diane Tucson, AZ, USA 11-29-09
    Diane Tucson, AZ, USA 11-29-09
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    1
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    "Boring"

    After the initial line of the book, it goes nowhere. Nothing momentous or inciteful happens.

    0 of 6 people found this review helpful
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