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Paperback The Year of Magical Thinking Book

ISBN: 1400078431

ISBN13: 9781400078431

The Year of Magical Thinking

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Book Overview

From one of America's iconic writers, a stunning book of electric honesty and passion. Joan Didion explores an intensely personal yet universal experience: a portrait of a marriage--and a life, in good times and bad--that will speak to anyone who has ever loved a husband or wife or child.

Customer Reviews

8 ratings

Title is misleading

Author narrates her own story of going through a loved one's death. There's nothing else.

Not what I expected.

This wasn't for me. Read 90% of it and decided not the book for me. She quotes a lot of people and some chapters were just that, a lot of quotes from other people. I was told by someone that it was a great book, it might be for some, just not for me. Unfortunately I bought a couple books, gifting one to another person. Waiting to hear from them what they think. Definitely a waste of time and money in my opinion. Wish I had the option to give it "0" stars.

Don’t buy from this publication!

The chapters are all out of order and so are the pages. It doesn’t even start with a real chapter! Total rip off!!

The Year of Magical Thinking

If you read this book and have not yet experienced Death coming to claim someone you love, then this book will be an entertaining, interesting read. Didion is, after all, an accomplished writer who knows the power of the right word, the perfectly placed dash. You may like it so much you recommend it to friends and lend it to them. On the other hand, if you have stood at a grave and wondered how you will keep yourself from jumping into it, if you have rushed home from a great restaurant to tell your Beloved all about the food and found the house empty and quiet and the Beloved long gone, this book will be not so much an entertainment as a general memorial to what we all go through when IT happens. Didion's chewing in her mind on the moment of her husband's death, trying to make rational sense of it all by quoting Freud and Neuland, realizing the powerful pull of habit in talking to a person who will never again listen all can remind you of your own repetitive ponderings on the Moment, the desperate search for Knowledge so you could understand what Happened. This book has much the same feel to me as DeBotton's book, On Love. The pace is gentle, the words perfect, and the feeling of recognition with each admission of weakness, terror, rage, and grief comes easily to the reader.

Chronicles of a Cool Customer

I have always admired the clear, precise, detail-observant way in which Joan Didion has crafted her essays. She has a way of writing that suggests a trauma victim's detatched self hovering above her own body, carefully noting her own sense of bewilderment (or amusement) over what has befallen her. This is true whether she is writing about broad social phenomena as in SLOUCHING TOWARD JERUSALEM or THE WHITE ALBUM, or about more deeply personal events as her husband's death (and her daughter's near death) which she addresses in THE YEAR OF MAGICAL THINKING. This last effort just earned her the National Book Award for non-fiction, a well-deserved honor. It is perhaps this clinical detatchment that prompted the hospital social worker to assure the emergency room doctor that Didion would not break down and require sedation when given the news of her husband's death. "It's okay," he says. "She's a pretty cool customer." What follows for the next two hundred pages is both an affirmation and denial of that assessment. Didion and husband John Gregory Dunne were married for almost forty years when Dunne died of a heart attack at home. In many ways their marriage was unique. Both were successful writers. And since they both wrote mostly from their home, they were together almost twenty-four hours a day, every day. They not only finished one another's sentences, they edited them as well. But it is Didion's ability to observe herself--her thoughts, her memories, her odd changes in behavior--that make her account of the year following Dunne's death so universal. And her honest and humble way of dissecting her feelings are what makes MAGICAL THINKING such a helpful book for anyone who has experienced the loss of someone dear to them. More so, I suspect, than any self-help book on grieving is likely to do. MAGICAL THINKING is likely to be a classic of the "loss memoir" genre on the level of C.S. Lewis's A GRIEF OBSERVED. I know I'll be recommending it to friends for years to come.


Accomplished actress Barbara Caruso who recently appeared on Broadway in a revival of "The Rivals" is a much sought after voice performer. She delivers an especially fine reading of Joan Didion's landmark exploration of grief. Seldom has one woman had to endure within a year the loss of a husband and a daughter, yet Didion found the strength to report the agony in her life with precision, grace, and truth. We are all beneficiaries. Didion and John Gregory Dunne had been married for some 40 years. Their relationship was more than that of a devoted couple, it was also a partnership shared by two acclaimed writers as they exchanged thoughts, ideas, beliefs. Then, it is suddenly gone. As we hear, "Life changes fast. Life changes in the instant. You sit down to dinner and life as you know it ends." Her husband had died. What follows is a poignant chronicle of the hours and days that followed, wrung from a heavy heart as she attempts to bring some sort of order out of her internal chaos, the grief that she describes as a type of insanity. Her words, raw and direct, are unforgettable. Very highly recommended. - Gail Cooke

The Magical Thinking of Denial

"Grief is a multi-faceted response to loss. Although conventionaly focused on the emotional response to loss, it also has a physical, cognitive, behavioural, social and philosophical dimensions." Wikipedia Joan Didion starts her book: "Life changes fast Life changes in an instant You sit down to dinner and life as you know it ends." On December 30, 2003 Joan and her husband, John Gregory Dunne were just sitting down to dinner about 9pm. They had returned from visiting their daughter, Quintana, who was comatose in an ICU in New York City. They were having a conversation as Joan put dinner on the table. She looked up, it was very quiet, John was not responding. He was slumped over the table with his hand raised. She realized all was not well, and in that instant her life changed. An ambulance was called; the trip to the Emergency Department, the meeting with the doctor, massive heart attack mentioned, and she knew her husband was dead. She returned home alone, did a few chores and went to bed and slept soundly. She awakened and realized something was wrong, and her first taste of grief descended. Joan Didion has written a devastating story of her first year after the death of her husband, and the grief that enveloped her. She writes as she thought, and the story is laid out in detail as it happened and in her own words. She has friends and family but John isn't there. She talked to him every day for the forty years they were married. They talked constantly and were with each other all the time. Even though conventional wisdom has it that absence makes the heart grow fonder. She remembers thinking "there is no one to hear the news, no where to go with the unmade plan, the uncompleted thought. There is no one to agree, disagree, talk back". Life changes in an instant. There is no place on earth to go where there is no memory. She kept expecting him to come back. She couldn't get rid of his shoes, because he needed shoes to come back. She knew this thought was irrational, but it kept her going. She kept busy helping her daughter and son-in-law put their life back together, and then it comes apart when Quintana becomes ill again. There is much to do, much to read about Quintana's illness, much to discuss with the hospital staff that look at her strangely when she discusses edema and too much "fluid overload". She immerses herself in the language of medicine, and it keeps her busy for a while. She tried new projects, nothing really works except time, but she still keeps expecting John to come home. He never does. She remembers all the little things he said about his life. He told her they had to go to Paris that November because he might never have the chance again. He was right. He was frequently right. And, oh, she misses him, she always will. Magnificent story of the year in the life of grief. Highly recommended. prisrob

Deserves to become a classic memoir about grief and loss

I stayed up almost all might just to finish reading it, unable to put this down, although I confess I had to kick a box of tissues nearby. I've lost 5 people in the last few years and, just recently, another friend and so I related very strongly to this book. Didion's unflinching account of the sudden loss of her husband (which occurred while their only child was in a coma in a hospital (!)) deserves to be a classic in the genre of books written by and for those who are grieving. It is hard to find books like this, which are both honest but not overly sentimental, not resorting to the tropes which seem to surround death. She doesn't offer vague platitudes or advice. She simply relates her very personal experience, including the inevitable vulnerability, unexpected moments of being blindsided by memories and sudden tears, etc. She covers all the bases, including the kind of insanity that can seize one in the throes of grief, those moments when you forget the person is actually dead, when you turn to speak to him or her as you normally would at a certain part of the day or reach for the phone to share the latest news. The book is raw. If you're looking for religous or spiritual guidance and inspiration, this is not the book for you. As Didion herself noted, writing about the book recently, it was intentionally written "raw". I assume she didn't want to wait, to distance herself from the intensity of the experience as she wrote it down, quite unlike many other books she has written. Raw or not, it wasn't sloppy, overly sentimental or complete despairing. It was simply honest, heartwrenchingly so, and Didion doesn't deviate from communicating, in absolute striking detail, the sense of alienation and disorientation that separates mourners from those who seem to be living "normal" lives. Grief is its own territory, separate from so-called normalcy. In so many ways, it is an illness, an affliction of the spirit and not one that can be cured in any one way. An aside- the photo of Didion inside the dustjacket is haunting. No question that those are the eyes of someone who has been scraped to the core, wounded and, presumably, still recovering. There is something beautiful in that portrait and, oddly, comforting. It is the face of a survivor, however hard it might be to live as one. This book will remain on my bookshelf and I expect I'll be thumbing through it for solace time and again. Reading it was both painful and cathartic and strangely comforting, with an intensity that left me awestruck. I am still amazed that she was able to produce such a beautifully written book in the throes of so much pain.

The Year of Magical Thinking Mentions in Our Blog

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The Year of Magical Thinking in 13 Book Releases We're Excited About This Month
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The Year of Magical Thinking in A Culture of Kindness
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Published by Ashly Moore Sheldon • December 25, 2019

This can be a rough time of year for many. Grief, loneliness, and scarcity are among the reasons people may feel particularly isolated and sad during the holidays. It's an opportunity to reflect on these difficulties and how we can help. Here are twelve books that offer perspectives on empathy and awareness.

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