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The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion

The Year of Magical Thinking (2005)

by Joan Didion

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
6,413182600 (3.83)238
  1. 20
    A Widow's Story: A Memoir by Joyce Carol Oates (KayCliff)
    KayCliff: Both are autobiographical accounts of the writer's first year of widowhood.
  2. 10
    Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson (Jesse_wiedinmyer)
  3. 00
    When We Were the Kennedys: A Memoir from Mexico, Maine by Monica Wood (DetailMuse)
    DetailMuse: Both are beautiful explorations of magical thinking during grief -- Didion's in reaction to the death of her husband in older age; Wood's in reaction to the death of her father in childhood.
  4. 00
    The Long Goodbye: A memoir by Meghan O'Rourke (whymaggiemay)
    whymaggiemay: Although these books certainly have differences, both are beautifully written, and both are about a year of grieving, each in their own way.
  5. 00
    Love Is a Mix Tape: Life and Loss, One Song at a Time by Rob Sheffield (sanddancer)

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» See also 238 mentions

English (175)  Norwegian (2)  Spanish (1)  Swedish (1)  All languages (179)
Showing 1-5 of 175 (next | show all)
I was sorry to read that some were disappointed in this book. Currently in my life, my husband of 36 years has a terminal illness and this book really spoke to me on a level that I think only reaches those who have been there. She even references reading a book earlier in her life about the loss of ones husband that she felt at the time to be nothing but whining - she was 22 at the time. It's like so many things in life, that unless you also have experienced it, it is truly hard to fully imagine the experience. We can imagine and we can empathize, but we cannot know. I get that she is rich and privileged, but that was not what this book was all about. That is her life. Was this the best book I ever read? No. However, she shared her pain and her thoughts and for anyone in that same spot or a similar spot, it's always comforting to hear someone else put it into words - words we can't always find. I found this book hit home for me - her story. Plain and simple - no preaching, no telling me what to think, say or do. Just her story; her experience. I read it in one day. ( )
  Nanambc | Aug 1, 2014 |
A hard memoir to read, but an amazing, honest and stark depiction about the ways we deal with grief, and the ways it can change us. A great book for anyone who has had to confront these things already, as it is a way to realize that others think and imagine similar things, as well as a help to realize that loss is inevitable for everyone. ( )
  abbeyhar | Jul 23, 2014 |
A hard memoir to read, but an amazing, honest and stark depiction about the ways we deal with grief, and the ways it can change us. A great book for anyone who has had to confront these things already, as it is a way to realize that others think and imagine similar things, as well as a help to realize that loss is inevitable for everyone. ( )
  abbeyhar | Jul 23, 2014 |
My main reaction to this book was enormous disappointment. Didion’s best work always seemed to me to get at social realities, the casual violence at the heart of power and privilege, a more generalized vacuity in American culture. She was an antidote to how self-absorbed and self-justifying, if not outright self-congratulatory, our mass media depictions of our society tend to be. Reading her writing was like the grim pleasure of seeing a scab carefully, cleanly removed from a festering wound. But here her textual camera is stuck in the tightest, narrowest of close-ups, on her own face (just the way the public seems to want it, since this was apparently her best selling book ever), and what emerges as a result feels uncomfortably like a narcissism so vast it’s utterly impenetrable, and utterly invisible to itself. The best writing about death universalizes the experience, but Didion’s book has the opposite effect: the more she says “we” the more you push back and say, no, not really, because this is all about you.

All this book revealed to me was Didion’s decades of existence within an extremely rarefied circle of privilege that she somehow wills herself not to recognize is infinitely removed from most of the lives on this planet. Which does not mean, of course, that death and horror cannot enter it. And that is the dirty secret of why such insider tales are immensely popular: because, in this country at least, we actually love to see the rich, the famous, the talented, the privileged, suffer and even die. And we pretend we can learn about “our common humanity” from their suffering, but really we learn nothing; we are merely distracted for awhile from our own less interesting, unrecognized, uncelebrated and therefore, in this culture, valueless, lives. Meanwhile, some suffering, simply by virtue of the positioning of the sufferer, becomes hugely magnified and takes up an enormous amount of cognitive space relative to a great deal of other suffering. But what can you do? Play it as it lays.
( )
  CSRodgers | May 3, 2014 |
Beautiful and sad. ( )
  Susanna.Dilliott | Apr 23, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 175 (next | show all)
Essayistic and concise, seeking external points of comparison, trying to set her case in some wider context.
added by KayCliff | editNew York Review of Books, Julian Barnes (Apr 7, 2011)
added by melmore | editLondon Review of Books, Michael Wood (pay site) (Jan 5, 2006)
The book is, as promised, extraordinary. The Year of Magical Thinking is raw, brutal, compact, precise, immediate, literate, and, given the subject matter, astonishingly readable.
added by melmore | editSlate.com, Peter D. Kramer (Oct 17, 2005)
Though the material is literally terrible, the writing is exhilarating and what unfolds resembles an adventure narrative: a forced expedition into those "cliffs of fall" identified by Hopkins.
The Year of Magical Thinking , though it spares nothing in describing Didion's confusion, grief and derangement, is a work of surpassing clarity and honesty. It may not provide "meaning" to her husband's death or her daughter's illness, but it describes their effects on her with unsparing candor. It was not written as a self-help handbook for the bereaved but as a journey into a place that none of us can fully imagine until we have been there.

» Add other authors (9 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Joan Didionprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Jonkheer, ChristienTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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This book is for John and for Quintana
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Life changes fast.
I remember thinking that I needed to discuss this with John.
Confronted with sudden disaster we all focus on how unremarkable the circumstances were in which the unthinkable occurred, the clear blue sky from which the plane fell, the routine errand that ended on the shoulder with the car in flames.
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Didion's journalistic skills are displayed as never before in this story of a year in her life that began with her daughter in a medically induced coma and her husband unexpectedly dead due to a heart attack.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 140004314X, Hardcover)

From one of America’s iconic writers, a stunning book of electric honesty and passion. Joan Didion explores an intensely personal yet universal experience: a portrait of a marriage–and a life, in good times and bad–that will speak to anyone who has ever loved a husband or wife or child.

Several days before Christmas 2003, John Gregory Dunne and Joan Didion saw their only daughter, Quintana, fall ill with what seemed at first flu, then pneumonia, then complete septic shock. She was put into an induced coma and placed on life support. Days later–the night before New Year’s Eve–the Dunnes were just sitting down to dinner after visiting the hospital when John Gregory Dunne suffered a massive and fatal coronary. In a second, this close, symbiotic partnership of forty years was over. Four weeks later, their daughter pulled through. Two months after that, arriving at LAX, she collapsed and underwent six hours of brain surgery at UCLA Medical Center to relieve a massive hematoma.

This powerful book is Didion’s attempt to make sense of the “weeks and then months that cut loose any fixed idea I ever had about death, about illness . . . about marriage and children and memory . . . about the shallowness of sanity, about life itself.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 14:04:45 -0400)

(see all 6 descriptions)

An autobiographical portrait of the author's efforts to deal with the death of her husband, John Gregory Dunne, shortly after their daughter Quintana was placed into an induced coma to help her survive complications after pneumonia.

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