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The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion

The Year of Magical Thinking (original 2005; edition 2006)

by Joan Didion

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6,900193525 (3.82)250
Title:The Year of Magical Thinking
Authors:Joan Didion
Info:Harper Perennial (2006), Paperback, 227 pages
Collections:Read, Your library
Tags:memoir, loss, grief, widowhood, death, bereavement

Work details

The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion (2005)

  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. 20
    Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson (Jesse_wiedinmyer)
  3. 00
    Nocturne: On The Life And Death Of My Brother by Helen Humphreys (unlucky)
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 00
    Love Is a Mix Tape: Life and Loss, One Song at a Time by Rob Sheffield (sanddancer)

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» See also 250 mentions

English (187)  Norwegian (2)  Spanish (1)  Swedish (1)  All languages (191)
Showing 1-5 of 187 (next | show all)
This is a heartbreakingly tender memoir of loss and tragedy. Didion triumphs.

Didion's husband dies suddenly at dinner - while her daughter lies in an ICU with sepsis. Thus begins a year of "magical thinking" - if I keep his shoes, hel'll come back - if we hadn't moved from California he wouldn't have died (and Quintana wouldn't be sick). Raw and emotional; irrational and logical. Didion makes her way through a year I would wish on no one. Yet, as I read, it was like looking at my future. I kept picturing my husband, and me as his widow. A powerful book. ( )
  BookConcierge | Feb 12, 2016 |
The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion
227 pages


December 2003 would change Joan Didion’s life forever. Besides her daughter being in ICU and unsure if she will survive, her husband of nearly 40 years dies very suddenly. This book follows the year after the loss of her husband and her journey through grief.

Many people have read this book and as usual, I’m a little late to the party. I can see why this book got so much praise – it was raw and emotional. I’ve seen complaints that it is depressing and disjointed but as anyone who has gone through deep grief…that is how grieving can feel at times. Didion makes it very personal and you almost feel like you are reading her private journal, at times you almost feel guilty as if you’re reading something you shouldn’t be allowed to delve into. She hides nothing in her thoughts or feelings and commend her for that, I can only assume it wasn’t easy. It was a beautifully written book for sure. I look forward to reading her book, Blue Nights, which was written about the death of her daughter (who died as Didion was promoting this book).

( )
  UberButter | Feb 9, 2016 |
Life, death, marriage, relationships and living are the theme that the author engages, shakes, and seeks to understand. This is a very compelling and well told story that is moving and thought provoking. In a style hard to describe that has to be experienced and appreciated. ( )
  deldevries | Jan 31, 2016 |
Joan Didion and her husband, John, come home from visiting her only daughter in the hospital. Their daughter is in serious condition. That evening her husband dies of a heart attack, and the world as she knows it ceases to exist. Didion describes her grieving process, noticing how grief leads to magical thinking. Her tone is direct and the details are often heart wrenching. Still as cerebral as ever, she approaches her own grief through an intellectual lens. She writes to understand what is happening to her, leaning on knowledge and often finding it does not suffice. Didion's portrayal of her struggles to cope with John's death and her daughter's illness is emotional, without being sentimental. This is an honest, personal depiction of grief, but it a universal story. Everyone, my high school students included, would benefit from reading this text. ( )
  ewalker1 | Jan 25, 2016 |
After returning home from the hospital, where her daughter was seriously ill, Joan and her husband sit down for dinner. Following the meal, she discovers her husband slumped over. He has suffered cardiac arrest and taken to the hospital where his is declared DOA. In the aftermath of her husband's death, she still has to deal with her daughter's illness, recovery, and subsequent relapse. This memoir tells the story of the year that follows, one that will transform everything that Joan thought she knew about life and death.

I wasn't sure what to expect when I started this book. By the time I had completed it, however, I knew that it had exceeded all of that and more. I generally enjoy memoirs, maybe it's the voyeur in me, but I really felt this one. I took a long time to read this book, starting it in April. Normally this is a sign that I am not enjoying the book, or that something about the book is not working for me. That was not true on this occasion. It was merely a case of having to learn where to fit reading into my new schedule, especially something that requires a little more thought than your average novel.

I have never read any of her other books, but Joan Didion has a way with words. The raw honesty and emotion present in the pages was captivating. I was originally drawn to the story because I wanted to know how others deal with death of a loved one, but this book is about so much more. I highly recommend it to anyone whose life is undergoing significant changes. It just might transform how you look at life too, or at least help you understand that you're not alone. ( )
  Mootastic1 | Jan 15, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 187 (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.

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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 Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:25:12 -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.

(summary from another edition)

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