The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion


AUTHOR: joan didion


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.

"Grief turns out to be a place none of us know until we reach it. We anticipate (we know) that someone close to us could die, but we do not look beyond the few days or weeks that immediately follow such an imagined death."
- The Year of Magical Thinking

What I loved:

One of my 2018 reading goals is to read the work of authors I've had on my list for forever but have just never gotten around to! Joan Didion is at the top of that list. I'm happy to say I finished The Year of Magical Thinking in 2 days and really fell in love with the writing style of Joan, although it took me a bit to get used to. Joan Didion writes with a certain frankness and staccato. At first, I couldn't figure out what it was that made her writing so different but then I remembered Didion is first and foremost a reporter, and her writing is a reflection of that. 

The material of this book covers what it's like to lose a loved one and is quite hard to read it times. It's both painful and beautiful the way she writes about the loss of her husband and the grief process.  It's unlike any other memoir about grief in the way she choose to express her inner thoughts. Joan wrestles with the interruption of her daily routine that the mind causes when its strung out on grief. Her grip on reality is coming undone, and writing this memoir became a coping mechanism of sorts. 

Joan is more stoic than emotive, but it's okay. Everyone has a different way of coping, and you'll find that hers is much more straightforward and cerebral than most.

What I didn't love

I mentioned before that Didion's writing style takes a bit of getting used to. And while I found it critical to the content she was writing about, some of the time (especially in the middle) it just fell flat for me. She describes a lot of things that don't need describing, especially when it comes to naming the names of her famous friends and what they were doing, driving, or wearing. But all of this is a personal opinion, some readers may very well love the detail!

The Takeaway

“A single person is missing from you, and the whole world is empty.”

When you finish The Year of Magical Thinking, you will need to take a moment to process it all. And if you've never experienced what it's like to lose someone, you may not be able to relate. I on the other hand have, and the very way Joan constructs her memoir is how a mind on grief works. Disjointed, heartbroken and separated from reality. By reading this intimate portrait of her life we are forced to examine our own lives and how we love as as a result.

Patience E. RandleComment