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The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion
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The Year of Magical Thinking (original 2005; edition 2005)

by Joan Didion (Author)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
9,421266666 (3.85)380
[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)
Member:ejwestmark
Title:The Year of Magical Thinking
Authors:Joan Didion (Author)
Info:Alfred A. Knopf (2005), Edition: 1, 227 pages
Collections:Your library
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Work Information

The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion (2005)

  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 380 mentions

English (253)  Swedish (2)  Norwegian (2)  Spanish (1)  Dutch (1)  Danish (1)  French (1)  All languages (261)
Showing 1-5 of 253 (next | show all)
Great writing.
So much pain.
But also so, so much privilege.
  indeedox | Jul 8, 2022 |
As a recent widow, I found a great deal I could relate to in this book -- more than in many other more positive discussions of grief. There is nothing positive about grief or loss, something that Didion makes crystal clear. Also, grief and loss cloud our thinking, they are painful, and they erode our sense of self. Didion's style is cool and analytic. What she has to say does not offer much comfort of the "it will get better" variety, but it does give this reader at least a sense of not being alone in a flood of emotion. Why not five stars? The book is so cool, so understated, that it leaves a sense of something missing. ( )
2 vote annbury | Jun 10, 2022 |
I listened to this audiobook which definitely lessened my enjoyment of it. The narration was a lot faster, crisper, and more articulate than Didion's speaking voice, which made it feel a lot colder than I know it was intended. I also didn't love the non-linear storytelling, but I also believe it served a purpose since Didion's thinking wasn't linear at all while she was grieving. As the title so kindly puts it, her thinking was "magical."

Throughout this book Didion describes the almost delusional, irrational, circular thinking she was pushed into by the death of her husband and the illness of her daughter. On the surface she was "a cool customer," meanwhile she believed her husband would come back to her, she sought meaning in things that clearly didn't matter, she obsessively researched, she took personally and grew angry at the most innocuous comments, she became obsessed with time and retracing steps and moments. She wasn't well, she wasn't herself.

This isn't a weepy, hopeful, inspiring account about grief, it's more about the fucked up things your mind can do to you. I'm not sure if Didion's experience is specific to a certain type of woman and situation, but it is so incredibly similar to the grief I've been watching my mom go through this past year. Both are confident, capable women who've been in extremely loving long-term, slightly co-dependent marriages and were genuinely shocked by the death of their husbands. On the surface, they cope well because they're competent and their husbands would expect them to, but if you push a little and peel back the layers, you quickly realize they're suffering from a slight mental illness, one that they'll recover from in time without intervention. But, still, they're not well. Grief has completely distorted their thinking.

This was maybe like a 4-star read for me in terms of enjoyment, but it so accurately described my experience with grief that I really had to bump it up because I think it's something every writer, psychologist and friend of a griever should read. A lot of people say the wrong thing to grievers because they have no idea where a griever's head is at. They believe the griever is the same, rational person they were before the death, but it's just not the case. That's what this book is about and Didion did a really fine job with it.https://www.librarything.com/work/2568271/book/215197120# ( )
  tanyaferrell | Apr 8, 2022 |
From Amazon: " 'Life changes fast....You sit down to dinner and life as you know it ends.' These were among the first words Joan Didion wrote in January 2004. Her daughter was lying unconscious in an intensive care unit, a victim of pneumonia and septic shock. Her husband, John Gregory Dunne, was dead. The night before New Year's Eve, while they were sitting down to dinner, he suffered a massive and fatal coronary. The two had lived and worked side by side for nearly 40 years. The weeks and months that followed 'cut loose any fixed idea I had about death, about illness, about probability and luck...about marriage and children and memory...about the shallowness of sanity, about life itself.' In The Year of Magical Thinking, Didion explores with electric honesty and passion a private yet universal experience. Her portrait of a marriage, and a life, in good times and bad, will speak directly to anyone who has ever loved a husband, a wife, or a child.
  St-Johns-Episcopal | Mar 30, 2022 |
The author is a very famous writer. She wrote about the year after she lost her husband to a heart attack. I think her husband was in his 70s. She was probably of similar age? She can't help missing her husband, can't help thinking of him as if he were still alive or would come back into her life. She can't help feeling stressed. She can't help thinking about every little detail that happened shortly before or after her husband's death. She was in this condition basically for the entire book. Near the last 10 pages I was wondering how was she going to conclude her book when no conclusive account of her year was available. In the last paragraph she ended with an acknowledgement that her husband would say change was inevitable, and she needed to move in the flow with the change.

She wrote about her husband attending church, but I don't think she ascribes to the Christian faith or any other religion. I think that is why she was stuck so much in her quandary without comfort. Rationally she agreed with a lot of things about death that atheists believed, but she couldn't truly "believe" it; She kept grasping for something more meaningful and eternal, but her rational mind tells her she's ridiculous and believing in magic. I'm guessing the reason this book resonated so much with the Pulitzer people was because many of them shared her dilemma when it came to experiencing death and loss. ( )
  CathyChou | Mar 11, 2022 |
Showing 1-5 of 253 (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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This book is for John and for Quintana
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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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