Book review: The Year of Magical Thinking

The Year of Magical Thinking The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion

My review

rating: 2 of 5 stars
This book follows Joan Didion's process of dealing with and making some sense of a very difficult period in her life. First, her only daughter falls gravely ill and is hospitalized. Just a few days later, her husband of 40 years collapses and dies at the dinner table.

I thought the book was stylistically interesting and well crafted. She speaks at one point of "the vortex"...the way that something seemingly random can evoke memories of her husband and suck her in unexpectedly. Like a vortex, the book returns to some refrains and events time and time again. "Life changes. Life changes fast. You sit down to dinner and life as you know it ends."

While I think it's a very apt analysis of her grief and the skewed ("magical") thinking that follows such a loss, I didn't find this book very interesting. The main events of the story happen right at the beginning. The rest of the book is just dealing with what happened in the beginning.

I don't know that this book would be particularly helpful to someone who is in the midst of the immediate grief following a loss, but I'm sure that those who have passed through it will find themselves in familiar territory.

I listened to the audiobook version of the book. The reader was not the author, and with the personal and tragic nature of the events of the book I can't see how the author could have gotten through it, anyway. The reader did a good job, but I did find the occasional musical interludes annoying...and they didn't seem to add much of anything to the listening experience.

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