The Year of Magical Thinking By Joan Didion
This has been one of the most reviewed books in recent months, receiving unanimous and well deserved praise, and has just been nominated for the prestigious National Book Award in the United States. Joan Didion is a wonderful writer, and in combination with an astoundingly personal story, this is truly a spectacular book.
Joan Didion says that this is not the book she thought she would ever write. It was written in the year following the sudden death of her husband, of a heart attack, at the dinner table. In the same year her daughter died of an illness from which she appeared to be recovering.
Devastating losses - the broken bonds of marriage, and of parent and child.
Many saw Joan Didion as a “cool customer” during that time - she took control of what she could - she learned as much as possible about the medical care of her daughter and the heart condition that killed her husband.
She says, “Information is control” and control was all she had after their deaths - because she could not control those events. “Death is the final divide” and she had to face it. She felt exposed, fragile and unstable in her grief, but as an optimist she made an effort to find things in her life to provide a reason for living.
Even though she had good reason to “feel sorry for herself,” as she says so perfectly, “only the survivors of a death are truly left alone.”
Look at the author photo on the fly leaf and you can see this woman exposed, and the profound sadness in her eyes.
It is the best book I have read about grief and the reality of life for those who are mourning. Read it - if you have experienced the tragedy of the death of a loved one you will understand and feel less alone - if you have not you will know what it is like for those who have.