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The Year of Magical Thinking

By Joan Didion

The Year of Magical Thinking
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  • Hardcover: Oct 2005,
    240 pages.
    Paperback: Feb 2007,
    214 pages.

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There are currently 10 reader reviews for The Year of Magical Thinking
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Bridgette Alyce Greathouse Wynn (07/15/11)

Insightful, essential
If you haven't read it, I urge you to get a copy of Joan Didion's magical account of her life and its abrupt change when her husband, writer, John Gregory Dunne, passed away...She chronicles a year and a day, in amazingly wonderful word pictures, that I believe is important to all of us. As humans, one thing is certain once we survive the birth canal - we'll die one day. The book is not morbid by any means. An accomplished writer herself, Ms. Didion manages to edify, entertain, and engage the reader at once; so much so it's hard to tear oneself away.

I was given the CD (4 in the case) as a gift by my parents, last year - a few months after the sudden death of my husband. I wasn't ready to hear it at that time. My heart was still too tender, and from what I heard of the first two chapters - the author's experience mirrored my own, down to emotions, thoughts (verbatim, mind you!), and of course, the questions. But I knew I'd find my way back to it in the fullness of time. And when I tell you that I devoured those CDs, please believe me! It is read beautifully, by award winning, Barbara Caruso. I became so engrossed by the details, the literary references (Ms. Didion is an exquisite literary source and drove me to "Google" and other resources that enabled me to thoroughly appreciate the nuances and augment the contexts). I had a field day discovering quotes from plays, movies and books I haven't seen or read (that are now on my "must have" list), and philosophers, psychologists...all from the extensive research Didion immersed herself in while going through the grieving process. Her book was a source of confirmation and yet another conduit through which I am now realizing my own heart's healing. (and I thought I was doing pretty well through my spiritual convictions and Faith). "The Year of Magical Thinking" helped accelerate my progress.

I shall now get the hard copy...and read it cover to cover. I shall savor it, turning the pages as I anticipate the morsels of wisdom born of rich life experiences; the good, bad and horrific. And I am moved to gather up my notes to myself, and put them in order to chronicle my own passage from married 31 years to widow, suddenly, when things were going so well and life was high in the clouds. Ms. Didion inspired me, lit a fire in my soul. I can say of a surety that I have lived a MIRACLE year from the day my husband died, May 8, 2010, to this day...strange as that may seem. It's nothing but the truth.
Hilary (03/17/11)

Heartfelt but very Sad
I bought this book when my husband was still alive. I remember telling him that I couldn't quite grasp how a woman could fantasize that her dead husband is going to appear one day. I never made it all the way through. It was almost too much for me at the time. I couldn't quite imagine being a widow with a very sick daughter.
Then my husband died in January 2009. When I picked up the book again, I was amazed at how I was identifying with her plight. My husband also died suddenly at home and I had to call the paramedics. And like Didion, I too feel that my husband sensed that he was dying. So some of it did start to make sense to me. But Didion's lack of faith in a hereafter cast a pall over the story. For me, without this belief, death is way too final, way too sad.

I was interested to read her accounts of the ordeal with her daughter especially when Didion had to tell her over and over that her dad had died. My heart broke for them both. But the endless medical details were way too much information for me. How many people, other than medical personnel, need to know all of this?

I finally finished the book and have donated it. I said to myself that never again did I want to suffer with Didion. Too overwhelming. But then I suppose she accomplished her goal. She wanted to show just how unbelievably hard life can be.
Pega Sprey (12/13/10)

It helped our family
This book was very helpful to my Mother after my Father, her husband of 63 years, passed away, and to both of us when my brother died 11 months later - especially the concept that grief makes you a little crazy. Those reviewers who read it after the loss of a parent probably didn't understand because it is expected and one doesn't experience the feeling of having been 'robbed' of many more decades of shared experiences. Whereas a remaining spouse who has to face that empty bed/house/dining chair will really find solace in Didion's experience.
L (10/07/10)

the year of magical thinking by joan didion
Honestly, I don't understand how this book is earning so much praise. I hated this book, it reads like a poorly written journal that should have never made it to print, and the random snip-its of info on grief and tragedy seem more like a sad attempt at a scrape booking venture than a serious novel. Simply terrible.
Donald G. Mashburn (01/24/10)

Year of Magical Thinking - not magical but well done.
I read Joan Didion's "The Year of Magical Thinking" shortly after the death of my beloved wife of more than 61 years. Didion's emotional and deftly-written story of her grief following her husband's sudden death from a heart attack makes the book a worthwhile read for anyone that has lost a spouse. But Didion also weaves into the story of her personal grief the account of her daughter's critical health problems that she and her husband faced before he died, and which she faced alone after his death. Her daughter's prolonged illness, and near-death, could have have been a distraction in the account of Didion's grief. But her daughter's health battle started before her husband's death, and Didion has woven that battle, and its ups and downs, and her own story of the love she shared with her husband into a story of loss, grief, struggle and love.

Some readers may be critical of Didion's personal accounts involving well-known events and people, but others will find that they make the story more interesting. Some may object to the inclusion of events that are not directly related to grieving. But, logically, they should be included if they triggered her fears and memories following her husband's death. Moreover, the author's story is about that year following her husband's untimely death. And, here, the author succeeds with a sure-footed, well-written story that, in itself, may not be magical but is emotional, poignant, and tender.
Marjorie (09/02/09)

"The Year of Magical Thinking"
I just finished this book and found it nothing special. I haven't lost a husband but have lost parents and understand the feeling of grief. But Joan Didion didn't say anything new and different here Instead she just dropped names of people and places as she was reliving the death and the year following it. Why should I care that she dined at Morton's? Couldn't she just have written that she dined at a nice restaurant?
This book reads as a journal or diary, valuable to the writer but not to a casual reader. There must be others who have written about the same subject. I agree with the critic who said Didion got by on her name and probably a lot of sympathy about what she went through.
Karen (03/02/09)

Didion Down Under
A deeply moving insightful representation of self in a mutilated world.
Janis Gale (03/12/08)

The absence of Magic
Didion read Caitlin Thomas's book "Leftover life to kill" at the age of twenty two and found it whining and self pitying. I had a similar reaction to Didion's book, I am fifty seven.

Didion has a beautiful way with words. The positive reviews of this book must then be a result of her reputation, rather than of this particular work. I found the absence of humour, the repetition and attention to tiny details self indulgent and cloying.

Grief doesn't discriminate and we have empathy, but even when personal experiences are penned in prose, the reading is still extremely heavy going.
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