Skip to content

The Year of Magical Thinking

April 17, 2007

Once I posted my reading list for the Spring Reading Thing Challenge I got started almost right away on The Year of Magical Thinkingby Joan Didion.

The Year of Magical ThinkingI don’t really know what I expected to get out of reading this book. I initially read about The Year of Magical Thinking on another blog and thought that it may be an interesting read. This is the non-fiction account of the year following the sudden death of the authors husband John. In the beginning of the book, Didion describes the pure chaos surrounding her while paramedics worked on her husband, who suffered a heart attack. All the while, Didion’s adult daughter lay in a hospital bed with a life-threatening case of pneumonia and septic shock.

Being a writer herself, Didion turned to literature to help her understand her own grief. From poems, self-help books and even Emily Post’s 1922 book of etiquette (the chapter on funerals) Didion found that information on grief was spare.

The author writes from the heart and at times you can really feel for her. She writes that while cleaning out her husband’s closet a few months after his death, she couldn’t give away his shoes. “I stood there a moment, then realized why: he would need shoes if he was to return.” She goes on to say “On most surface levels I seemed rational. To the average observer I would have appeared to fully understand that death was irreversible.”

In the end I liked the book, but didn’t love it. I don’t think it was really the book itself that I didn’t like, but the fact that for the most part I am not a huge fan of non-fiction. I do though appreciate how in the end she sums up grief this way “I know why we try to keep the dead alive: we try to keep them alive in order to keep them with us. I also know that if we are to live ourselves there comes a point which we must relinquish the dead, let them go, keep them dead.”

– Stephanie

12 Comments leave one →
  1. April 17, 2007 3:54 pm

    I appreciate this review. I think I saw the book mentioned on your initial post and it interested me. I’m not sure what this makes me decide, but it’s good to know.

  2. April 17, 2007 11:20 pm

    I loved this book. Loved it. Loved the interview that Joan had with Terry Gross and that is why I got the book – hardback. Loved it. So real, gritty, devastating and beautiful.

  3. Tara permalink
    April 17, 2007 11:50 pm

    I volunteer at our local library and just suggested this book to a patron. I liked it a lot. Saying it was so real it right on.

  4. April 19, 2007 3:44 pm

    I also heard the interview wzgirl mentioned and since then I’ve been wanting to read this book, however, I just know it’s not going to be an easy read so that’s why I keep putting it aside. One day though.

  5. Nicole permalink
    April 19, 2007 5:20 pm

    great book.

  6. April 19, 2007 7:14 pm

    I have gotten about two-thirds of the way through (on two attempts) — and couldn’t finish.

  7. April 22, 2007 10:06 pm

    I liked this book and after talking to a few friends who had suffered the loss of a spouse or parent, I realized that her perspective is one that many experience. The interviews on NPR were really good too.

  8. April 24, 2007 12:58 pm

    I just bought this book this weekend and I’m still on the first chapter, so far I like it. Have you read any of her other books (fic or nonfic)?

  9. April 24, 2007 2:05 pm

    I thought this was a good book, but not as wonderful as some readers. I was moved by her honesty, which rang true, at least for me, but I think there are other books about the loss of a loved one that resonated with me more deeply than this. I need to post my remember to post my review. I read it in 2005 before I started blogging.

  10. May 3, 2007 10:55 pm

    I’ve waffled about this books for quite some time. I’ve heard such good things about it, mainly from other bloggers, but I’m not sure how difficult it would be to read, having lost my mother as well as some other family members. Still, when I came across a used copy the other day, I bought it and added it to my TBR shelf. Time will tell …

  11. October 10, 2007 2:51 am

    If this hadn’t been a selection for my book club, I wouldn’t have read it – it’s completely not my style, being both nonfiction and terribly sad, two things I try to avoid! But the part about her husband’s shoes really struck me, as did the Emily Post part. I didn’t love it because it wasn’t the type of book I could love and (thankfully and knock on wood) I haven’t experienced that level of grief. But it was interesting and I think for some people it would be a really important read.


  1. The Year of Magical Thinking – Joan Didion « Regular Rumination

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: