Debbie "DJ"'s Reviews > The Year of Magical Thinking

The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion
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it was amazing
bookshelves: memoir

This is a hard book for me to review, as I know my own personal experience will be foremost. A big thank you to a wonderful friend who sent this to me after the loss of my own partner three weeks ago. So yes, this book is about grief and loss. It is Didion's own personal journey after the loss of her husband. The first lines in her memoir begin...
"Life changes fast.
Life changes in an instant.
You sit down to dinner and life as you know it ends.
The question of self-pity."
Those words resonated with me profoundly. She goes on to describe that grief is very different than loss. Loss can be the death of someone very close which causes sadness, pain, loneliness, etc., but still there is a distance. Still there is an ability to plan and remember things. Grief however is different, as it has no distance. She describes grief as the feeling of waves of distress, shortness of breath, and loss of memory, to name a few. I cannot say enough about how comforting that was for me. Not only did her words help me understand what was happening to me now, but also what I may experience in the future. While everyone responds to grief differently, there are some general "truisms." One's that Didion has found not only from personal experience, but research as well. I was reminded of Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, and her book on the five stages of death. What may seem the normal progression of feelings are often felt in no particular order or time.

I had never read Joan Didion before, so I did a little research on her writing. She was born way before social media, and the tell-all confessional types of writing seen today. When she wrote this in 2005, critics accused her of voyeurism. The experience of mourning was still believed to be private, and most thought it should remain that way. I find it interesting that this is the only piece I found missing from parts of her memoir.

In much of this book she has written more of the facts of her experience than her feelings. To think, 10 years ago this was seen as voyeurism? And yet, in keeping my own journal, I notice much of it is a recording of facts. Maybe in some ways one's emotions shut down as the shock to the body is foremost. I can only wonder in Didion's case, this coupled with the times in which she wrote, how explosive such details must have been.

I cannot help but feel Didion helped pave the way for many authors to reveal deeper emotions. For me, this sometimes factual account did not take away from the experience that is this book.

I highly recommend this to anyone who is going through a grieving process, or is interested in the affects grieving produces.
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Quotes Debbie "DJ" Liked

Joan Didion
“A single person is missing for you, and the whole world is empty.”
Joan Didion, The Year of Magical Thinking

Reading Progress

November 28, 2014 – Shelved
November 28, 2014 – Shelved as: to-read
August 19, 2015 – Started Reading
August 29, 2015 – Shelved as: memoir
August 29, 2015 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-50 of 56 (56 new)

message 1: by Jen (new) - added it

Jen I'm so sorry to hear of your loss, Debbie. I'm glad the book was able to help with the healing process. I will add. Thank you for the personal review. My thoughts are with you.

message 2: by Diane S ☔ (new)

Diane S ☔ So sorry Debbie, How very hard for you. Wonderful review and poignant personal remarks.

message 3: by Jennifer (new)

Jennifer I'm so sorry to hear of your loss. Take care of you.

message 4: by Leanne (new)

Leanne Oh my gosh, Debbie, I'm so sorry to hear :(

message 5: by Hanneke (new)

Hanneke That is so nice to read that this book gave you comfort in your intense feelings of loss, Debs. Some books really have that capacity and it is great that you had it available to you. Thinking of you and sending you strength.

message 6: by Kelli (new)

Kelli Xoxoxo

Iris P Thanks for sharing this very heartfelt review with us Debbie.
I imagine each one of us would have own paths to recover from such a loss.
I read this a few years ago but not sure I had the emotional maturity to totally grasp its message, not sure I do yet...
Like others have expressed here, I am hoping that you will continue to find peace and strength on this process.

message 8: by Kandice (new) - added it

Kandice Debbie, I am so sorry to hear you have lost your partner. My heart breaks for you. I'm glad this book has helped with the healing process. May you find peace and comfort in the memories you shared with your partner.

message 9: by Jaidee (new)

Jaidee my deepest condolences.

message 10: by Caroline (new)

Caroline A wonderful review Debbie which resonates powerfully with your own very sad experience.

A dear friend of mine has just lost her sister, and is still devastated by the loss. I will definitely get her this book. Thank you so much for alerting me to it.

message 11: by Debbie (new)

Debbie I'm so sorry for your loss, Debbie. This is a wonderful review, and it's good to hear the book was helpful to you.

message 12: by Amber (new) - added it

Amber So sorry to hear this Debbie. I'm glad a friend could recommend something to help you through this devastating time. Sending lots of hugs your way.

message 13: by Mike (new) - added it

Mike My deepest condolences on the loss of your partner, Debbie. I've heard many wonderful things about this book and I'm so glad you have found some meaningful comfort from reading it. A deeply touching and personal review. Take care.

message 14: by ❀Julie (new) - added it

❀Julie I'm so sorry for your loss. I'm glad the book was comforting to you and I hope you will continue to find peace... Thanks for bringing this book to light with your thoughtful and touching review.

Debbie Beautiful review, just beautiful. I'm so glad the book helped; the book touched me, too, and I haven't lost anyone. I love her writing, the way she sounds factual but gives us thundery emotion between the lines, under the skin. Interesting about the difference between loss and grief; and the way your mind at first can only handle facts. I guess it's a way to protect yourself from the load of pain about to hit. How can we walk in your shoes? We can't. We try to help with kind words and good thoughts and casseroles, but I know our best efforts can't take any of the grief away. You're strong; it will get a little easier with time. Xoxoxo, dear friend.

Julie Ehlers I'm so sorry to hear this, DJ. My condolences. I'm glad this book was helpful.

message 17: by Angela M (new)

Angela M Debbie, I wish there was something more to say than I'm so sorry for the loss of your partner. Your heartfelt and personal review has touched many of us . Thank you for sharing part of yourself with us in this beautiful review . Virtual hugs are being sent your way.

message 18: by ☮Karen (new)

☮Karen Debbie, I am so sorry to hear of your loss and glad if this book helped you in any way. Sending you strength and courage.

message 19: by Jan (new)

Jan Wow...very heartfelt review Deb. Thanks for sharing with us

Tamsen Debbie, thinking about you. I'm so sorry for the loss of your loved one. I know those waves of grief crash hard. I'm glad you found some comfort through Didion. Much, much love.

message 21: by MomToKippy (new)

MomToKippy I am so sorry and thank you for sharing your experience. It is good to know this book has helped you and may help others because of your openness.

message 22: by Cher (new) - added it

Cher Beautiful review, Debbie, and so sorry to hear about your partner. XOXO

message 23: by Fionnuala (new)

Fionnuala Ah, Debbie, what you must have been through this past while.
That you can write this review is wonderful though - and a perfect book to pick. I love Didion's writing in this and in Blue Nights, the grief memoir she wrote after the death of her daughter. Unlike you, who give us news of your tragedy in one line, Didion feels the need to write it out over and over. What saves her is that she writes it sublimely.

message 24: by Snotchocheez (new)

Snotchocheez Jeez. What a way to be introduced to a book, DJ. Splendid review, but I hate to hear about your Julie. May you find peace, somehow.

message 25: by Zoeytron (new)

Zoeytron So very sorry to hear of the loss of your partner. My thoughts are with you. Lovely review, DJ.

Debbie "DJ" Thank you my dear friends. I so want to write a response to each of you. Please know your kind and generous words have touched me deeply. I'm gonna carry them around in my little know, that one right next to my heart. :)

message 27: by Carol (new) - added it

Carol So sorry for your loss Debbie. Wonderful review.

Dianne I am so sorry, Debbie. I read this book right after the loss of my brother and found comfort in it as well. I also loved her book "Blue Nights." Sending caring thoughts your way....

Sherry So sorry for your loss,Debbie. Thank you for such a thoughtful sensitive review.

message 30: by Esil (new) - added it

Esil DJ -- I'm so sorry to hear about your loss. My heart goes out to you. I'm glad to hear you were able to get comfort from this book. Grief indeed has no distance. Take care of yourself.

message 31: by Annie (new) - added it

Annie I agree with Sherry

Cheryl Beautiful poignancy, your review Debbie. I'm a Didion fan and much of what you admired in this memoir, I did also. I'm glad you found some healing with it, and I'm also sorry for your loss.

message 33: by Tooter (last edited Aug 30, 2015 02:47PM) (new)

Tooter So sorry to hear about the loss of your partner Deb. I can't imagine what you're going through but my heart breaks for you. Take care friend.

message 34: by Nicole (new)

Nicole I am so, so sorry to hear of your loss Debbie. It is heartbreaking. Take care of yourself, you are in my thoughts. x

message 35: by Sue (new) - rated it 4 stars

Sue Debbie, I'm very sorry for your loss. This is a wonderful review you've written, of a powerful book. I'm glad that it has been a good one for you. I thought it was amazing, reading it a couple of years after my mother died, so I wasn't in your place at all. But anything that speaks so strongly to you is a gift. Love and peace.

Brian Thinking of you in your time of mourning, Debbie. Thank you for sharing with us.

message 37: by Lela (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lela It's a lovely book and you wrote such a beautiful, personal review with open windows into your pain and sorrow. Thank you for being able and willing to share. Lots of love and so many good thoughts coming to you!

message 38: by Caroline (new)

Caroline DJ, my sincerest condolences on the loss of your partner.

message 39: by Carol (new)

Carol It is good to hear that this book brought you comfort. Thank heavens for friends when you are grieving.

Debbie "DJ" I'm at a loss for words (I know--rare). Thanks again for all the wonderful comments, I can't begin to tell you how much they mean. Going to have to get a bigger pocket!

message 41: by Nancy (new)

Nancy I'm so sorry for your loss, Debbie, and very glad you found comfort with Joan Didion. I should read the book also, as I lost my mother three weeks ago.

Debbie "DJ" Oh Nancy, I'm sorry to hear of your loss. Didion might be the perfect read. I found it very helpful, even though a lot of the book becomes a chronicling of events. But the beginning, oh, how thankful I was to know all the feeling were normal, that everyone experiences such a loss differently. My heart goes out to you.

Renee Debbie, so sorry to hear of your loss. Glad to know you are finding some comfort in what you're reading.

Debbie "DJ" Hey Renee, Thanks so much. Really nice to hear from you. :)

message 45: by Dawn (new) - added it

Dawn My condolences to you on the loss of your beloved. Thank you for your review. I'm adding it. Wishing you peace.

Debbie "DJ" Aw Dawn, thank you.

Debbie "DJ" Caroline wrote: "A wonderful review Debbie which resonates powerfully with your own very sad experience.

A dear friend of mine has just lost her sister, and is still devastated by the loss. I will definitely ..."

Hi Caroline, wanted to comment (to everyone) earlier, but even writing was too hard. Sending my love to you and your friend who lost her sister. Hope she is managing, and that this book may have helped. What a wonderful friend she has in you.

message 48: by Nancy (new)

Nancy Debbie "DJ" wrote: "Oh Nancy, I'm sorry to hear of your loss. Didion might be the perfect read. I found it very helpful, even though a lot of the book becomes a chronicling of events. But the beginning, oh, how thankf..."

Thank you, Debbie. My apologies for cluttering your space with my loss. My mom was struggling with lung cancer and died at 83, living a full life. Losing your life partner must be so much more devastating. May your books, friends and family offer comfort and strength. Thinking of you.

Debbie "DJ" Oh Nancy, definitely not cluttering space. Losing a mother is really, really hard, no matter what age. Sounds like your loss was only a week after mine. Am sure you are grieving also, so am wishing you the same. Thinking of you too.

message 50: by Karyn (new)

Karyn I'm sorry for your loss. Take extra care of yourself.

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