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The Year of Magical Thinking

3.83 of 5 stars 3.83  ·  rating details  ·  76,836 ratings  ·  6,278 reviews
From one of America's iconic writers, this is 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. This is a stunning book of electric honesty and passion. Several days before Christmas 2003, John Gregory Dunne and Joan Didion saw their only daughter, Quintana, fall ill.

At first they thought
Paperback, 227 pages
Published February 13th 2007 by Vintage (first published 2005)
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Community Reviews

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Feb 07, 2010 Kim rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: readers who don't give up
Recommended to Kim by: Maurice
You might think of me as a cynic.

If you’re being kind, that is. I’m the one that says ’Seriously?’ when being told of some tragic event--like someone would actually make up the horrific thing. I’m the one that views the whole process of death--the telling, the grieving, the service of any kind, the ’after’-- as playing out like I’m in a soap opera bubble. Which camera should I look into when I break down again? Strike one against me.

Strike Two: I've never been much of a fan of Joan Didion... I
Books Ring Mah Bell
Disclaimer: Being fresh into the grieving process myself, you may want to skip this review and head onto others. Undoubtedly I'll purge my grief in a review about a book on grief. You've been warned.

Right off the top I will say this for the book: raw, powerful, honest, amazing.
If you have any interest in the grief process, READ THIS BOOK.

The only criticism that I might have is that there's a lot of name dropping. Insert famous names and some fancy locations (Beverly Hills, Malibu), talk about u
noisy penguin
May 21, 2007 noisy penguin rated it 1 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: no one should read this book.
I hated this book. It is the reason I instituted my "100 pages" policy (if it's not promising 100 pages in, I will no longer waste my time on it). So within the 100 pages I did read, all I got from Didion was that she and her husband used to live a fabulous life and they know a lot of famous people. She spoke of the '60s as a time when "everyone" was flying from LA to San Francisco for dinner. Um, no, actually, "everyone" wasn't doing that then and they're not doing it now. Instead of saying "ou ...more
Like Johnny Rotten said during their last (in the universe where they never would re-form again in the mid-90's) show, "Do you ever feel like you've been cheated?"
I do Johnny, I do.
I feel cheated by this book. I bought it because it cost me a dollar. I wasn't interested in it that much. I finally picked it up to read because I wanted to write a review about how pathetic and whiny it was. I thought I'd say something about how now that baby-boomers are starting to kick the bucket they want a fuc
"you sit down to dinner and life as you know it ends. the question of self-pity."

i picked up this book and read it knowing nothing more than those two short lines. those two lines which become the refrain of the memoir.

i think i must have been drawn to it intuitively, i needed to read this book when i did. didion's memoir records her thoughts, feelings and actions during the year following her husband's death and her daughter's near-death hospitalizations (i learned later that after the book wa
Jason Koivu
To call Joan Didion cold or even heartless - true as it may be in the light of The Year of Magical Thinking, this monument to the analytical dissection of grief - is itself a cold and heartless condemnation. We all grieve in our own way. This is hers.

After losing numerous family members suddenly and too soon, Didion then lost her husband and daughter within the span of a year. This book is her cathartic contemplation of that loss.

Heartrending, yes occasionally. Heartwarming, no never. Didion's
I am not the type of person that cries at funerals. I find crying at a funeral as constructive as trying to stop a raging river with a few paper towels and a bag of sand, nothing is achieved. Find me not callous, for I am sensitive to the recently departed and their family. It's just that...I don't know...I know there is nothing that can be done to bring back that person. Rereading the above really makes me sound like an ass so let me try it another way: death is something we all have to accept; ...more
Joan Didion's daughter Quintana fell gravely ill and was hospitalized with a serious infection. She was placed in a medical coma and put on life support. Only weeks later, Joan's husband, John Dunne, was speaking with her from their living room after visiting their daughter in the hospital, stopped mid-sentence and keeled over dead on the floor of a massive coronary. Four weeks later, Quintana pulled through and revived, but only two months after that, she collapsed from a massive brain hematoma ...more
Jun 14, 2007 Dawn rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: No One
Hated it, hated it, hated it- but kept reading with the hope that all my pain and suffering would somehow be worth it in the end. It wasn't. The same self-pitying, whiney, depressing, self-important sentiments are basically repeated over and over again only with different words. Joan Didion can obviously write well, but she should have left this cathartic piece in her closet. And I'm not averse to reading novels that deal with grief. This one was just way too self-indulgent and redundant for me. ...more
In four days it will be one year since my father-in-law died in an accidental shooting. He had recently turned 60 and recently celebrated his 40th wedding anniversary. In 18 days it will be four years since my older brother died suddenly in a Back Hawk crash in Germany. He was closing in on his 40th birthday. He was preparing to land.

I had two father-figures in my life. I also had two brothers. I lost one of each pair suddenly - dramatically. I've watched my wife struggle with the loss of her fa
Diane Librarian
There were many beautiful and moving passages in this book, but there are also some tedious aspects. I feel like a brute for criticizing what is essentially Didion's grief diary after her husband died, but some complaints have to be made. Didion gets too bogged down in the hours and days and minutiae of her husband's autopsy report. Also, parts felt like an academic paper because she kept quoting medical studies -- all part of the attempt to make sense of the autopsy.

Those kinds of details are
Kylee Hill
I read this book because it got a lot of attention and it "seemed" like I "should". The whole time I was reading it, I had a uncontrollable reoccurring thought: "This rich bitch. Rich bitch. Rich bitch." It seemed funny to me after a while. It was hard to read the most sincere sections with an open mind while this was happening.

There is some rumination in this book about the infinite sense of loss surrounding the death of a vital person. There is also a lot of writing about the anger and resentm
Simeon Berry
I also thought this book was tremendously overrated. In the past, I loved Didion because she was a great stylist and a brilliant structuralist. The title essay of The White Album is probably the best-written essay of all time in my book, followed by F. Scott Fitzgerald's "The Crack-up" and Charles Bowden's "Torch Song." She has the ability to analyze the personal politics of narrative, and to disclose just how weird and singular her brain is without even a trace of pity or sentimentality. The Wh ...more
This wasn't exactly what I expected. I knew from an interview with Didion on Fresh Air that the book was written in the year that followed the death of her husband - A year she spent mostly in hospitals at her adult daughter's bedside. The daughter, Quintana, suffered various illnesses and injuries that year, all of them serious & potentially fatal. The medical odyssey had begun just five days before her husband's sudden death from a heart attack. He died, in fact, in the couple's living roo ...more
Sep 03, 2007 Audrey rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: People who have their shit together
I don't think it's Joan Didion's fault that my reaction to this book was to question and/or deride several facets of my life: should I be closer to my husband, like the author? Was I wasting time? Why didn't I keep a real journal? Why were the sporadic sentences in my sad attempt a journal so poorly written? Why don't I have a kitchen notebook to write down my meals like Joan Didion? Why did I just switch tense? Shouldn't I be keeping better notes on the goings-on of my life? In any event, this ...more
A National Book Award-winner, this book is Didion’s personal memoir of the year following the death of her husband, writer John Dunne. Didion lays out her thought processes and emotions and struggle for normalcy after Dunne passes away suddenly one night at the dinner table from a heart problem. I didn’t find this book nearly as good as the hype would lead me to believe. The NY Times review called it an "indelible portrait of loss and grief." The NY Review of Books said "I can’t imagine dying w ...more
"I know why we try to keep the dead alive: we try to keep them alive in order to keep them with us.
I also know that if we are to live ourselves there comes a point at which we must relinquish the dead, let them go, keep them dead.
Let them become the photograph on the table.
Let them become the name on the trust accounts.
Let go of them in the water."

Joan Didion, in this memoir following her year after the death of her husband, John, and hospitalization of her only daughter, deals with grief. She t
This is my first attempt to read anything written by Joan Didion. I picked up The Year of Magical thinking at a used book sale, after hearing her name thrown around in literary circles and not knowing anything about her. At this moment I'm only on page 76 and I don't know if I'll bother trying to make it to page 77 as the pretension is becoming unbearable.

The book is a series of essays she wrote after the death of her husband to whom she was married for 40 years. Little nuggets of Didion's poeti
Aug 08, 2008 Kate rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: memoir
What has stayed with me most from this book is her idea of "the shallowness of sanity." We move through life as though our days aren't numbered; death or tragedy shocks us into another mental state. "Sanity" involves a kind of denial of mortality.
It has been said that divorce is second in psychological trauma only to the loss of a spouse. Personally, I think that’s bullshit; loss of a child must trump all. In any case, Ms. Didion is of the opinion that loss through divorce is mitigated by the ex-spouses corporeal presence on this fine earth; i.e. they’re still alive and well and accessible. Indeed ex-spouses are a present and constant reminder of failure. They are a walking, talking embodiment of the life you thought you would have forev ...more
My sympathy for this really, truly awful situation dwindled because I just could not understand what the fuck was going on with her lifestyle. I had to re-read and re-read many passages because "plane" would be used interchangeably with "private jet," so I couldn't understand how they just let her roll from one place to another no charge, etc.

Let me start this over.

I have loved Joan Didion's writing in the past. Without including herself in the equation, her stories have always been coherent and
"Grief is different. Grief has no distance. Grief comes in waves, paroxysms, sudden apprehensions that weaken the knees and blind the eyes and obliterate the dailiness of life."

In The Magical Year of Thinking, Joan Didion creates a cerebral, searing, and brutal portrayal of grief. Just days before Christmas of 2003, Didion's daughter, Quintana, fell ill and began life support. Then, while eating dinner around a week later, Didion's husband, John, suffered a massive and fatal coronary. In this bo
Quando terminò la cerimonia ci recammo nella villetta di Pebble Beach. C’erano degli stuzzichini, dello champagne, una terrazza aperta sul Pacifico, una cosa molto semplice. Per la luna di miele passammo qualche notte in bungalow del ranch San Ysidro di Montecito e poi, annoiati, fuggimmo al Beverly Hills Hotel.

Ce la farà una persona che scrive queste cose, con questo tono, ce la farà a trasmettere il suo dolore, il senso della sua perdita, a risultare empatica…?

After I saw a short article about this book, I decided I would probably have to read it.
The author lost her husband suddenly while her only daughter was in a coma in the hospital. I loved the book and I would highly recommend it to anyone who has lost a spouse, parent, or someone close. And, to anyone in a long term marriage or relationship that still has both partners.
As I read it, I thought a lot about my mom and how these would have been her thoughts – if she had not been the first to go. I t
Didion's memoir of the year after her husband's death, and the serious illnesses of her daughter Quintanna, is a gripping read. It moves back and forth through her married life with John, recounting moments of possible foreshadowing of future disaster. She mentions and then documents the unwinding of the mind and spirit after losing a loved one, what happens to protect, to shelter, to then move on. I found much to relate to, possibly to return to at a later time.

I've seen negative mention by ot
Sep 26, 2007 Jessica rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: good grief!
For me this book was all about the tension between my hateful, all-consuming envy of Joan Didion for being a rich, brilliant, famous, cool, successful writer with the perfect life, and her obvious point that none of that stuff really matters.

I mean, okay, it is way better to stay at the Beverly Wilshire hotel while your only daughter's bruised and swollen brain and dying body are scalpeled apart by the best trauma doctors in the country. This is better than, say, having your daughter get only tr
Didion breaks a cardinal rule of story-writing, which is to have something happen. The only events that occur in this book are the instantaneous cardiac arrest of her husband and an illness that puts her daughter on life support. Even these, due to Didion's weaving, do not feel like ordinary events in a plotline. She tells pieces of the story over and over again through the various angles of memory, as though her grief had been journalled and later assembled as a mosaic instead of in chronologic ...more
My original “review” of this book consisted of one word: “Wow!” I was so blown away, that one word summed it up for me.

At the time I didn’t even really understand what Magical Thinking meant, although Joan Dideon had shown me, without my realizing it. The definition: “that if a person hopes for something enough, or performs the right actions, that an unavoidable event can be averted”, was an apt title for this moving Memoir. The way Dideon dealt with the loss of her husband and daughter was by u
Mar 03, 2015 Alex rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2013
This is the second book my girlfriend has recommended to me about people whose spouses die. So...

There's a clinical feel about this book. Not accidentally: Didion goes out of her way to cite research on the effects of grief. She analyzes it. You can feel her standing back from it, trying desperately to understand it. It lacks the emotional punch of (the other depressing-ass book my girlfriend convinced me to read) About Alice, and it does that on purpose. This is how Joan Didion works, I guess:
I've only attended one funeral, a girlfriend's grandmother's, maybe twenty-five years back. All I remember is two old people sang "Let Me Call You Sweetheart" and every cell in my body screamed for me to leave from the second the ceremony started to the final procession or, uh, however funerals end. I'm not adept socially and, combined with the raw emotions associated with death, my lack of social skills are enough for me to fake sick through funerals. I'm getting tense just writing this paragra ...more
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Joan Didion was born in California and lives in New York City. She's best known for her novels and her literary journalism.

Her novels and essays explore the disintegration of American morals and cultural chaos, where the overriding theme is individual and social fragmentation. A sense of anxiety or dread permeates much of her work.
More about Joan Didion...
Slouching Towards Bethlehem Play It as It Lays Blue Nights The White Album A Book of Common Prayer

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“Life changes in the instant. The ordinary instant.” 893 likes
“Grief turns out to be a place none of us know until we reach it. We anticipate (we know) that someone close to us could die, but we do not look beyond the few days or weeks that immediately follow such an imagined death. We misconstrue the nature of even those few days or weeks. We might expect if the death is sudden to feel shock. We do not expect this shock to be obliterative, dislocating to both body and mind. We might expect that we will be prostrate, inconsolable, crazy with loss. We do not expect to be literally crazy, cool customers who believe their husband is about to return and need his shoes.” 210 likes
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