Lara's Reviews > The Year of Magical Thinking

The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion
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's review
Apr 14, 2010

really liked it
bookshelves: book-lush-book-club, memoir
Read in April, 2010

** spoiler alert ** Pasting in what I wrote in the Book Lush book club forum:

I finally finished this book last night and I had SUCH a wide range of reactions to it.

First, I loved it. I didn't find it depressing at all. It made me think of focusing on the little things that make us happy and define our lives. There was on passage in particular (and it's been a while since I read it, so bear with me) but it was about one summer where the author and her husband had a routine - he swam and she gardened, they ate and watched at tv show (? or something) and I thought "Yes! Yes!" - it's not just the fancy vacations and special dinners and significant birthdays or other events that make memories. I could live without those things. What I would mourn so much if I lost my boyfriend is our day to day life. We should treasure those moments.

I also loved the tone (?) of the writing. I haven't read any of her other books and I'm not even sure "tone" is the correct word, but reading it felt like someone with a soft voice was reading to me, while I was wrapped up in a blanket - I found it soothing and lovely.

And then, all of a sudden, I lost interest in the book. To be honest, I think it was me - I was stressed and feeling a bit frantic and I just couldn't sink into it, but it's doubtful I would have been able to sink into anything deeper than a People magazine, so I stopped reading all together.

I picked it back up a while later and fell right back into it. I haven't suffered a significant loss (TOUCH WOOD) but I was still relating to the book thinking of other losses - a particularly hard breakup, etc. I realize they are not the same, but I still recognized some of the stages of grief - not being able to drive by a certain location, etc. and I got back into loving the book again.

And then! I was surfing the internet (as you do) and found that Quintana had died after the book was written and oh wow. I felt gutted. I guess I had been reading the book as hopeful - hopeful that as awful and blinding as grief is, we can move past it and when I think how horrific that second loss must have been, I don't know...I just can't imagine getting over that and I somehow put myself in the author's place and I thought "No, no, this is ALL WRONG now". Like whatever she thought she knew about grief must have flown out the window and I felt horribly sad for her. I actually found myself feeling depressed as I read the rest of the book, but only (I think) because I knew what happened after.

I wish I hadn't learned of Quintana's death until I'd finished the book - I'm really not sure how differently I may have felt about the last half of the book.

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