Monday, July 4, 2011

The Year of Magical Thinking

The Year of Magical ThinkingThe Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book was pressed into my hands by a friend at a used bookstore. “You have to read this,” she said, not caring that I already had three other books in my arms. So the book sat on my shelf for a couple years until I found myself overwhelmed the immediacy of death and wondering how people who have lost someone deal with the quiet and the questions that fall on ears that can no longer hear.

I confess that I started the book and initially only got through a couple of chapters. It was too depressing, too familiar to people I know who had lost their spouses or their child. And then finally I was ready to follow Joan Didion into her mourning and complete disbelief that the man she had shared more than forty-five years of her life with was gone.

Didion’s narrative probably should have been edited down to a shorter piece of writing. Maybe more of a novella length or an extended editorial, but because Didion and her late husband are well-respected writers, the length and uneven telling of the story are forgiven. After all, what about the year (or years) after losing a spouse is even and perfectly crafted. Didion’s book is replete with staggering candor and lines that chilled my heart even though I was reading the book on a summer day on the lake. She mentions the vulnerability, the nakedness, and the openness that are apparent on the faces whose lives have changed in a way they never wanted it to. As Didion says, “You sit down to dinner and life as you know it ends.” And now like Didion, I am left wishing for a yesterday that wasn’t even mine.

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