Elizabeth's Reviews > The Year of Magical Thinking

The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion
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's review
Aug 13, 2008

it was ok
Read in October, 2009

** spoiler alert ** I was surprised by this work's works stiffness and what I sometimes regarded as a lack of feeling. Perhaps because I have been fortunate not to have grieved someone who died untimely, I had trouble relating to the author's memoir of her own grief following the death of her husband. It is not surprising that the author numbs her own grief by concentrating on a project, in this case the all consuming project of managing her only child's grave illness (an illness to which she ultimately succumbs). The presence of this other activity, however, often hides the focus of the work and it can be difficult to determine if the writer is still grieving (except for sudden outbursts - like the unwillingness to take a detour past a place that is likely to spark a memory of the author and her husband). This work has since been turned into a play - a one woman monologue - and I think the spoken word adds a lot to realizing the grief that is present in each activity (especially the spoken word of Vanessa Redgrave, who has been the actress of such work on and off broadway).

An interesting aside- why is that that there is a word for what you become after the loss of a spouse or the loss of your parents (widow(er)/orphan) but no word for what must be the most devastating loss - a parent's loss of a child? Is it something too terrible to name? Are there words in other languages for such people?

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