Originally, I read this book as a way to cope with a lot of family deaths that occurred during a difficult time in my life. It was recommended by a user of theYahoo Cafe Libri Group, but it didn't live up to my expectations. Perhaps the disconnection lay in the fact that Didion suffered from the loss of a spouse whereas my grief was more distant: my cousin, grandmother, uncle, and great uncle all died in relative succession of each other. I also perceive the grieving process as being unique to each individual, and I found that Didion's coping mechanism was not like mine. She found solace in research whereas I felt numb and stopped reading and writing for a long time. I was so unable to control my emotions that I didn't attend all the funerals. Despite grieving differently, I did discover some aspects that Didion and I shared: 1) depression 2) the inability to manage the everyday life, mine surfaced when I lost focus of my educational studies. Unfortunately, these similarities did not endear the book to me. However, I would still recommend The Year of Magical Thinkingto any reader regardless of whether one has experienced a close death purely because it is a well-written and interesting autobiography. The entire scope of the book follows the year of Didion's life after the death of her husband and the health complications that are endangering the life of her only child. It's not always a chronological examination because Didion's thoughts are fluid as they are constantly influenced by memories, items, and events that will take the reader to another place and time in her life (I liken these instances as memory triggers). Stylistically, the writing often seems like stream of consciousness, which actually makes the autobiography stand out as an unique representation of one person's life. Contributing to this style, the setting skips from New York, which is where her husband dies, to memories in Hawaii, Paris, and both past and present events in Los Angeles. Despite being difficult to follow the progression of time, Didion's grief is palpable through her memory associations. The purpose for writingThe Year of Magical Thinkingis for authorJoan Didionto analyze and understand her grief. Because it is such a personal story, her development and progression is often internalized and was difficult for a reader to relate to, especially if your thought process works differently. Despite that fact, she effectively develops her own state of mind and effectively explores the personalities of the two most important people in her life: a) her husband (John) b) her daughter (Quintana). She defines her love for both of them and grapples with grief, depression, fear, life, change, and, most importantly, acceptance. She explores the nuisances of language and uses medical and psychological research to maintain control, even though she knows that she can't control or change the past with her knowledge. Yet, it is the research that provides the comfort she desperately longs for. Also, the exploration of passages from her own writing as well as her husband's provide much needed connections between life and death. One of the most disappointing aspects of the book is the lack of photos from Didion's life. True, she paints an emotional and philosophical portrait of the people she loves, but the physical descriptions are lacking, as if her husband was no longer substantial because he was already deceased while Quintana was fast approaching the same result. There is one image on the back cover which is misleading because it was taken in 1976 even though she is writing about the year from December 2003 to December 2004. Originally, I thought her daughter was a child in the autobiography, but it is revealed that she is a recently married adult. Still, the photo has sentimental value and is analyzed by Didion in the book (her daughter and husband are off to the left while she is looking at them from the right side of the patio). Despite the fact that it is an interesting look at Didion's most painful year in her life, I could not relate and thus, my rating dropped considerably. I came looking for consolation and respite from my own painful memories. What I found was an interesting autobiography, but nothing that touched my soul. I was not lead to the path of healing. The research and psychological musings, although interesting, are not the way I cope with grief. I intensely cry at weird moments of the day with an inability to express my sadness. I feel an empty spot in my heart and soul that will never be filled no matter how many years go by. Didion's reliance on outside sources of comfort, such as research, made her appear cold and detached from the entire process. I wanted less studying and more raw emotions, similar to mine own. The disconnection between the author and I was not the most disappointing aspect of this autobiography. The ending was the worst-- it was rushed and almost cliche. I never fully understood how she let go of the pain associated with her husband's death or how the year of her grief becameThe Year of Magical Thinking(and the title of her book). I attribute this disappointment to the fact that it is a very intimately written autobiography forJoan Didion, not the reader.
Even understanding this, I felt cheated. I was left with the same debilitating grief whereas Didion found closure. For this reason, I truly only recommend this book to those looking for a well-written autobiography. Readers who have experienced the death of a loved one should be weary about finding consolation between these pages.
Joan Didion, one of America's foremost journalists and writers, tackles a universal experience in The Year of Magical Thinking, that of dying, death, loss and grief. Ever the practitioner of the literary succinct and eloquent-trademarks of Didion's writing style-she explores these themes and global experiences via her own personal tragedies, i.e. the sudden 2003 death of her husband-of nearly forty years of marriage-in their apartment and their daughter, Quintana's severe ill-health. … more
Many years ago Joan Didion was featured on C-Span's BookTV. I don't have many writers which register as rock stars, but for me, Didion is definitely one of them. The show had a call-in period. I didn't expect to get through, but low and behold after a few busy signals, did in fact get through to ask a question to one of my literary idols. I wish I could say I asked her a phenomenal, insightful question and that her face showed she was impressed with my knowledge … more
This whole book describes events and stories throughout the lives of Joan Didion and her family, and it serves as a way for her to express her grief and try to come to terms with the death of her husband of 40 years, all during a year of what she calls "magical thinking." It's not an entertaining read. It offers some insight on marriage and family, but overall I felt like I was reading something far too personal, a diary of sorts, something that anyone else might write but … more
The Year of Magical Thinking (2005), by Joan Didion (b. 1934), is an account of the year following the death of the author's husband John Gregory Dunne (1932–2003). Published by Knopf in October 2005, the book was immediately acclaimed as a classic in the genre of mourning literature. It won the National Book Award in November 2005 and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award as well as the Pulitzer Prize for Biography/Autobiography