REVIEW: A Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion
Dear Ms Didion,
I found your account of your first year after the sudden and tragic death of your husband, all while dealing with your critically ill daughter’s many admissions to various hospitals, to be deeply moving yet in some ways offsetting and disjointed. I guess that’s due to intermixing the two narratives in a kind of stream of consciousness but at times it was very difficult to follow or make sense of.
It’s the telling of the story of a 40 year marriage that’s filled with joyous highs and unbearable lows and musings on death and grieving which ultimately show how wonderful a man you married and how happy you both were. I think it was the little details that struck me most: how you couldn’t let go of some of his clothes because he’d need them when he came back, how it would be the first time he wouldn’t be there to edit one of your stories, wondering what word he’d been looking up that day in his dictionary, happiness that he’d been there for your daughter’s wedding, the fact that due to her illnesses you had to tell your daughter three different times that her father was dead..
Readers won’t find any self help for grieving here but might recognize the various stages of grief and take comfort that they’re not alone in them. It takes a little effort, I think, for the average person to see past the mention of trendy restaurants, famous people and jetsetting lifestyle but in the end, grief takes the same toll on everyone. I could see the evolution of your grief and your final acceptance that you couldn’t rewrite the end, reroll the film and obtain a different ending. That you had to let go of your belief that you could have in any way changed the outcome of what happened that night your husband died. The book is a tribute to what you had together and I hope brought you peace.