I read this book in November last year and I remember thinking how apt the Halloween season was for this kind of read. The Year of Magical Thinking is Joan Didion’s personal account of loss, grief, and pain as she dealt with her husband’s sudden death while her only daughter was in a coma battling for her life.
Joan Didion’s narrative is something to speak highly about, her prose crisp and matter of fact. I have heard too many good things about Joan Didion and her novel Play It As It Lays is on my wishlist shelf for some time now. If it were not for the book bingo challenge I joined (but did not finish) last year, I wouldn’t have voluntarily picked up a non-fiction book to read. And I’m so glad I did (I’m grateful for the Memoir square on my Bingo) because I got to sample Joan Didion’s magnificent writing.
I don’t have an idea whether Play It As It Lays is written in the same tone and feel as The Year of Magical Thinking, but if I were to describe this memoir in one word it would be raw. There is nothing pretentious in how Joan Didion described her grief. I can feel leaping out from the pages the agony of not knowing how death could have claimed her husband’s life that easily, the uncertainty of seeing her daughter alive again, the regret of not doing something that could have prevented her husband from that fatal heart attack. I can remember the several times I got out of bed to look for a marker to highlight paragraphs in the book.
The Year of Magical Thinking is so honest, so piercing, so human. Many times I hear it being said about grief that the pain will just go away as time progresses. In her candid and vivid account, Joan Didion showed the day to day struggle with grief and loss as “time” progresses — the line we have to go through until we reach that point where the piercing pain becomes a dull throb.
I really love this book. It does not promise any dramatic breakthrough on how to effectively deal with grief. But it shows that you only have to live each moment, one day at a time, and that no, you’re not the only who has gone through the pain.
“We are imperfect mortal beings, aware of that mortality even as we push it away, failed by our very complication, so wired that when we mourn our losses we also mourn, for better or for worse, ourselves. As we were. As we are no longer. As we will one day not be at all.”
My Rating: 4/5 stars.
My copy: Paperback, from Monique. (Thank you!)