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The Year of Magical Thinking (2005)

by Joan Didion

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
8,766251668 (3.84)344
[In this book, the author] 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 ... 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." -Dust jacket.… (more)
  1. 20
    Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson (Jesse_wiedinmyer)
  2. 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.
  3. 00
    Logboek van een onbarmhartig jaar by Connie Palmen (JuliaMaria)
    JuliaMaria: Trauer über den Tod des Ehemannes
  4. 00
    True Story: The Life and Death of My Brother by Helen Humphreys (unlucky)
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 00
    Love Is a Mix Tape: Life and Loss, One Song at a Time by Rob Sheffield (sanddancer)
  8. 01
    Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy by Sheryl Sandberg (JuliaMaria)
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» See also 344 mentions

English (242)  Norwegian (2)  Spanish (1)  Swedish (1)  French (1)  Dutch (1)  All languages (248)
Showing 1-5 of 242 (next | show all)
This was just the right book for me now and just the right thing to crash through my months-long reading slump, the first I can remember in my adult life.

Joan Didion's searching chronicle of her first year following the sudden death of her husband in 2004 helped steer me toward an essential realism in my own similar crisis. She sheds light on such ordinarily inexpressible traumas as the shattering of all our connections and the collapsing of the everyday routines that anchor our lives. She distinguishes valuably between mourning and grief. She exposes her own toxic denial and turns it to recognition.

I'd never read any of Didion's work before, but I'll be back for more. The pairing of her prose, clear as lead crystal, with the plumbing of emotions and perceptions too deep for most people's words, worked a kind of catharsis for me. Like her, I'm struggling to grasp that no response is coming and that the absence is permanent.

And that in the end you have to go with the change.

"There was a level on which I believed that what had happened remained reversible. That was why I needed to be alone." (page 32) ( )
  Meredy | Feb 20, 2021 |
Attratta dai premi vinti e dal titolo accattivante, mi annotai di leggere questo libro qualche tempo fa, dimenticandomi sia la trama sia l'appunto.

Trovato quindi su una bancarella dell'usato l'ho comprato. E ho fatto un errore.
Un saggio sulla vedovanza scritto in quella forma di "nuovo giornalismo" nato negli anni '60 e che comunica i fatti sotto forma di narrazione.
Quindi una cronaca in forma di narrazione che parte dalla sera in cui il marito viene colpito da infarto e prosegue con l'elaborazione del lutto.

Insomma, è un esempio di forma letteraria particolare più che un libro interessante. ( )
  LauraLaLunga | Feb 15, 2021 |
Didion does a deep dive into the process of grief and mourning after the sudden death of her husband at home and near-loss of their only daughter in the same year. Powerful in the raw pain it conveys, but beautifully written. ( )
  dele2451 | Feb 15, 2021 |
Joan Didion tells of the death of her husband John. They had a unique marriage it seemed because other than the first 5 months of the marriage, they both worked from home and spent nearly 24 hours a day together for 40 years. Nevertheless, I think her reflections and her processing of grief were helpful.

For me the book was good. She retells memories of her life with John, his death, everything leading up to his death, the surprising foreshadowing moments and conversations before his death only knowable afterward, her difficulty moving forward, the process, etc. with insight, wit and candor. As as she processes her struggle, the reader does as well. Her reflections sparked a desire, perhaps a need in me, in working a bit more intentionally on my own process of healing, not from a death, but divorce.

Three things I didn't like: 1) Their lifestyle felt unrelatable at times (because of fame and wealth). 2) Sometimes she was overly detailed. 3) There didn't seem to be much "magical thinking." I happen work with people who have serious mental illness and I was hoping for a bit more psychosis / delusions. There were some, but not enough (in my opinion) to merit the phrase in her title.

Neverthless, a good book - recommended for those going through grief. ( )
  nrt43 | Dec 29, 2020 |
This is a gutting account of death and loss in the span of a year. Joan Didion is a novelist whose daughter suddenly ends up in the hospital with a mysterious unexplained illness, and in the middle of her ICU tenure, Didion's husband suddenly dies. In the middle of this grief, her daughter recovers and collapses again, and Didion reviews her life, questioning everything that could be a sign. This is a raw memoir and goes back and forth in time, as Didion processes her grief and her life moving forward. ( )
  DrFuriosa | Dec 4, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 242 (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 (7 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Joan Didionprimary authorall editionscalculated
Caruso, BarbaraNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Jonkheer, ChristienTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
Dedication
This book is for John and for Quintana
First words
Life changes fast.
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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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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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[In this book, the author] 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 ... 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." -Dust jacket.

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Book description
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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An edition of this book was published by HighBridge Audio.

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HighBridge

An edition of this book was published by HighBridge.

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