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The Year of Magical Thinking (2005)

by Joan Didion

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
8,911254664 (3.85)350
[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: A Novel 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 350 mentions

English (245)  Norwegian (2)  Spanish (1)  Swedish (1)  French (1)  Dutch (1)  All languages (251)
Showing 1-5 of 245 (next | show all)
A thoughtful and thought-provoking reflection on grief and mourning. ( )
  Charon07 | Jul 16, 2021 |
After I began reading this book, Facebook's birthday corner was showing my father's name. Dad won't be checking his wall from the grave, but still .... Joan Didion knew her husband John Gregory Dunne was dead of a heart attack, but on some level it didn't quite register that Dunne wouldn't come back or couldn't have been brought back. Didion triangulates this murky psychological territory, circling back from various angles, in waves that that seems to track with the stages of grief. By her account Didion and Dunne both would reread novels just to study the author's technique. That attention to craft suggests how she makes this subject so accessible, and why the last paragraph tempted me to start over.
  rynk | Jul 11, 2021 |
Knocked me on my ass. Grief told perfectly. ( )
  CaitlinMcC | Jul 11, 2021 |
Didion is a wonderful writer and her journey through grief is very relatable, but not sure of the title, even though it is mentioned in the narrative. ( )
  bookwyrmm | Jun 24, 2021 |
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 |
Showing 1-5 of 245 (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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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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HighBridge Audio

An edition of this book was published by HighBridge Audio.

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HighBridge

An edition of this book was published by HighBridge.

» Publisher information page

 

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