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Publisher's Summary

When celebrated writer Joan Didion’s life was altered forever, she wrote a new chapter. In this adaptation of her iconic memoir, Didion transforms the story of the shattering loss of her husband and their daughter into a one-woman play performed by Tony Award winner Vanessa Redgrave, who originated the role on Broadway in 2007. Written with Didion’s trademark style of cool observation, The Year of Magical Thinking weaves back and forth in time, taking listeners on a poignant journey through heartbreak, grief, and resilience. It’s an unforgettable theatrical experience that resonates with anyone who has ever loved.

©2005 Joan Didion (P)2020 AO Media LLC

Our favorite moments from The Year of Magical Thinking

"That's what I'm here to tell you."
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"I guess that was when I knew..."
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"There's nothing I do not discuss with John."
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  • The Year of Magical Thinking
  • "That's what I'm here to tell you."
  • The Year of Magical Thinking
  • "I guess that was when I knew..."
  • The Year of Magical Thinking
  • "There's nothing I do not discuss with John."

Featured Article: Comforting Audiobooks About Grief and Loss That Actually Help


When it comes to the death of a loved one, there is no easy path forward. Grieving can place significant mental strain on those who are mourning. And because everyone grieves a little differently, it can be hard to know where to turn for help, or what to say to someone who is in the throes of grief. Audiobooks on grief can offer insight to those looking for ways to support the mourning, or a bit of comfort for anyone struggling with loss themselves.

What listeners say about The Year of Magical Thinking

Average Customer Ratings
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Difficult story, but worth it

I saw Vanessa Redgrave do the first run of The Year of Magical Thinking in 2007 on Broadway.
She entered the theater looking really bad. The evening before she had not been well and had
canceled. I flew from Florida to NYC that morning so I was worried after hearing she had let
the understudy take her place the night before. I know now she was getting into character.

The play was excellent. It was Ms. Redgrave sitting on the stage as if just telling us the story.
It was very difficult to hear the pain and confusion. I think people often do not understand what
magical thinking is. It was the perfect title for this book. In the early part she says she thinks
he is still alive in California due to the time difference. That is a good example of magical thinking.
Sentences that begin with "if" are often magical thinking. There is a difference in the play and
the recording. Ms. Redgrave was 70 when she was in the play and now is 83 so there is a bit
of a difference in her voice. I really wish they had recorded the original play for video and audio.

The part I remember feeling so emotional about was at the end when she is asking if she lied
to her daughter about the medical tests and care making her well. Every mother tells a child
they are going to be ok unless they know for certain the child is dying and some do it even then.
That was a hard bit of the story for a mother.

A very good performance of a best seller.

103 people found this helpful

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Trigger warning

The reading is amazing and due to experiencing a recent lose totally has the vibes of lose. It is heartfelt and wrenching. Be careful. It can destroy you.

51 people found this helpful

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The Year of Magical Thinking

A strange and haunting book, I am not sure if it portrays grief or a mind not accepting grief. It certainly makes you think . The narration was very good.

41 people found this helpful

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How long will the impact last?

The narration was moving, the story did and is still making me think and wonder.

37 people found this helpful

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Breathtaking

I cannot recall a short story that dug and hit me so deep. Read it.

29 people found this helpful

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I Really Enjoyed This Book

I'm thankful the Author chose to share her experience in this book. The narration really helped give the story it's tone.

29 people found this helpful

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I Had Difficulty Relating

People have been recommending this book to me for a number of years, and I finally got around to listening to it.

Let me first say that Vanessa Redgrave's performance is spectacular. She embodies the narrator to the bone. This is not a reading. It's a performance, and it's brilliant.

The narrator's denial of reality--what she calls "magical thinking" is somewhat compelling. I was most engaged with the parts where it was clear that she was trying to "rewrite" her husband's death in the same way she'd rewrite any story she had created from her imagination. This idea that she could somehow change the course of a death by backing up and changing a particular detail captivated me--undoubtedly because I am a writer myself. And of course, it's well written--it's Joan Didion, after all. So, it got off to a good and compelling start, and I was even thinking about recommending it to someone.

But as it continued, so much of this story sat with me as the complaints of the exceedingly and excessively overprivileged, told with an apparent blindness to that privilege. I had difficulty relating, despite the universality of the loss itself or even the fact that I myself only recently lost someone close to me. I am normally an overly compassionate person, reduced to tears easily, but something about this written narrator--whom I assume is Didion herself--was just so off-putting to me, I haven't even felt compelled enough to see how it ends, and I have only 13 minutes left.

Perhaps reading the original, unabridged book would have been a different and better experience for me; I can't say. Like I said, I enjoyed the way Vanessa Redgrave brought it to life--though I wonder if something got lost in the adaptation, which shortened the original.

NOTE: I did finally listen to the ending--only because Audible turned it on when I started the car--and I'm glad I did. Didion's words at the end reflecting on her process of magical thinking and the nature of grief were pretty exquisite. So, I'm adding a star to my review and editing it slightly.

26 people found this helpful

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Poignant and beautifully heartbreaking

What a beautiful and poignant look into grief. This journey through her thoughts is captured so well I feel I must have stood beside her watching this unfold. Captivating, heartbreaking, yet somehow hopeful. “I love you more than one more day.” We should all love this way fully and complete! I will be thinking of the writing and the performance for a long time to come.

24 people found this helpful

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beautiful; sad

Brilliantly written. Redgrave is amazing. I had the sense that we hear Didion's voice through narrator.

14 people found this helpful

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Moving

Incredible narration and writing.
This book wasn’t quite what I’d imagined but it was absolutely stunning and captivated me from the beginning.
It touches deeply into parts of the human experience that are rarely so poetically expressed.

12 people found this helpful

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  • Svetly Damianova
  • 08-03-21

Profound and truthful story✨

It was a real delight to hear this story, filled with so much love, grief and understanding of the human nature. The book was, of course, exceptionally performed! I would recommend it with all my heart 📖

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  • Anonymous User
  • 07-25-21

Hard to connect, but good for self-reflection

Judging by some lower rated reviews, it looks like part of readers awaited a more soothing, indeed a magical story, and these expectations have ruined perception of this book. This book covers what the title promises - the author reflects on her thoughts or actions which she believes will reverse of her family's death, such as not throwing away her dead husband's shoes because otherwise he won't have anything to wear when he comes back or calling an acquintance in other time zone where time is set back and wondering, if she flies to this part of USA, will her husband be still alive there. Because... He isn't dead there by their time. Those are clear examples of the magical thinking, so in this sense this book is not misleading.
I personally rated this audiobook 4 stars for perfomance and 3 for story. For performance - even though the narrator really set the tone and delivered the emotial part of this story beautifully, some parts didn't sound clear and were hard to understand from audio perspective.
For story - subjectively speaking, I couldn't connect with it. I felt as if stranger started to talk about their hardships of life while I'm being late and not interested at all. I'm not entirely sure what made it feel so detached or what could have been done for story to connect with reader/listener more. This feels even more odd as my dad died last year and wounds, suffering from loss are still present. Thinking about my personal loss was one of rare moments what made me connect with the story, but, to be honest, in the end, it means I felt connection with my personal story, my grief instead of author's. For some reason, shorter or non-literar world people's stories about loss have felt more real than this, and knowing author had more space to express themselves than an internet comment or blog post, article in some publication, it makes me feel that reading/listening to this book doesn't have a very well take on the subject.
Some parts were thought provoking - at least for me. The author stressed several times that she's in control, that she's got this. Such stance made me look that magical thinking is not only result of desparation or helplessness, but of compelling desire to always be in charge, to be the person who orchestrates events around them at times - even when objectively it's not in their power. Or person... who always needs to say the last word in an argument...
I also felt author's confusion, whether saying "everything will be okay" to her daughter, where there's big chance nothing is going to be okay, counts as a lie. This also makes me question if this manifestation of magical thinking in light form, because the end, "it will be okay" is a person's wish, preferred scenario not a certainity or a fact.
Last thing - this story really shows that when being in front of pain, helplessness, it's very human to turn back to magical thinking, and that it's the "last card" people can use to cope with hurt or fear if this is something they haven't practiced as much. This story shows that accepting things for what they are is the only was of moving forward, even though acceptance doesn't show up overnight.
I would say that writing this review has made me appreciate this book more, but I still wouldn't dare to call this as an iconic or authentic reflection of what it means to lose dear people. Perhaps the self-awareness that all actions done were product of magical thinking was the most redeeming aspect of this book. And, well... also this quote,
"Mourning has its place
but also its limits."

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 06-13-21

True art about grief

This is probably the best depiction of profound grief and loss I've ever heard. Vanessa Redgrave's performance is flawless.

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  • Ms. S. Smith
  • 05-05-21

Poignant and heartbreaking

Vanessa Redgrave gives an amazing performance here of Joan Didion‘s unimaginable heartbreak when she lost both her husband and daughter within a short space of time. Highly recommended.

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  • mosses farmhouse
  • 04-23-21

A tough listen ... but extremely well narrated

This is no easy listen.

It is wonderfully well written and beautifully narrated.

I was glad it was short though!

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  • ABraun
  • 10-29-20

Beautiful

I’ve read this beautiful book a couple of years ago and have been deeply moved by the preformance of V.R.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Billy Bunter
  • 10-22-20

Excellent

You wouldn't think anyone would 'read' this more than once as its about the death of Joan Didion's family; her husband, and shortly after, their only child, their daughter who'd just got married, but it's so honest, so real in the denial and the awareness of the truth that you are full of understanding. It's one of the best pieces I've ever heard.
Vanessa Redgrave reads it marvellously well.
On the Netflix film these two woman are old and fragile and I forgot Vanessa had also lost her daughter, Natasha Richardson, until she mentioned losing 'Tash'.
Very sad but oh so human. I am in awe of it.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 10-16-20

heart wrenching and beautiful

it feels almost morbid to review this as “beautiful” given the subject matter, but it is, and it will break your heart

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  • Madeline Bradley
  • 06-24-21

Incredible Performance

Very moving. Didion’s writing is stunning, tough to follow at times but so passionate that it doesn’t matter if parts haven’t quite added up or made sense. So much passion in this performance from Vanessa Redgrave, truly beautiful.