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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
6,972197518 (3.83)251
  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. 00
    Nocturne: On The Life And Death Of My Brother by Helen Humphreys (unlucky)
  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
    Love Is a Mix Tape: Life and Loss, One Song at a Time by Rob Sheffield (sanddancer)
  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.

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» See also 251 mentions

English (190)  Norwegian (2)  Spanish (1)  Swedish (1)  All languages (194)
Showing 1-5 of 190 (next | show all)
like i need to rate this book! it's a sad story about a fascinating woman who happens to be a great writer. i love the jacket pic of the joan with her daughter and john on a balcony overlooking the ocean in malibu. wow, getting a glimpse into her life was quite an experience. thank you, joan. ( )
  Joseph_W_Naus | Jul 20, 2016 |
  StPaulsChurch | Jul 19, 2016 |
An incredibly sobering experience about loss that I have yet to experience. astonishingly candid! ( )
  bpeters65 | Jul 16, 2016 |
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 |
Showing 1-5 of 190 (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 (8 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 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.

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