The Year of Magical Thinking

After submitting all of the final paperwork for my internship I rewarded myself with a glass of wine and reading time. I was able to finish Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking. This was my first book by Didion, and it completely destroyed me.

This book is heart-wrenching. Didion writes about the year after she lost her husband. In the same time period her daughter is incredibly ill. Didion writes about how she “goes to the literature” to sort out what is happening with these situations. She is reading medical books to sort out the situation with her daughter, and C.S. Lewis to sort out the grief surrounding her husband.

I will admit that I look at reviews on Goodreads when I am reading a new writer. There were comments about Didion name-dropping, bragging about her financial status, and whining about her situation. There were many mentions of famous friends, which at times felt as though she was name-dropping, but these people are in her life and had an impact on her while she was grieving. The wealth piece didn’t bother me, it did not come across as bragging. I also did not think she was whining. She just lost her husband and has no idea how to react! Toward the end of the book, Didion discusses how you do not know how you will react to grief. You anticipate grief to be a process where you are working on recovering from the loss of this person, but that’s not how it works. She explains these intimate moments where she would walk into the house, anxious to tell her husband about something that happened, only to find he was not there. When her daughter required a tracheotomy, she did not know how to make that decision on her own. The void she experiences is both tangible and awful.

The part of this book that hit me the hardest is the inscription inside the cover. I picked this book up at a used book sale and found the following:

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I would recommend this book. As I was reading I had to think about why this was on the books-to-read-in-your-20s list. I’m 27, thinking about losing a partner is not regularly on my mind. I had read somewhere that you are curious about death at two points in your life – when you’re older and know that it will happen, and when you’re young and do not think it will ever happen. This book helps to provide some perspective.

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