Sunday, February 26, 2006

Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion

Magical Thinking, as used in the title of this book, is the idea that your internal thoughts have some sort of control on the outside world. In this case, it was Didion believing that she had to keep her husband’s shoes because he would need them when he came back, after dying at the dinner table of a heart attack.

This book, as most people know, is about the year after Didion’s husband’s death. It is very much about the difficulty of suddenly and unexpectedly losing someone who has always been there. Everything was fine one moment and the next it was over.

Didion does an excellent job of describing the suddenness and the extreme feeling of loss. This is very well written. When I started reading this, I had difficulty putting it down because as absurd as this sounds, I felt as if I was leaving her alone if I stopped reading. And her experience was so awful, I didn’t want to leave her alone. Yet that is what this book is about, being alone for the first time in 40 years.

She describes her marriage as different from the typical marriage. She and her husband were friends and co-workers and they talked to each other in ways that families do not seem to communicate. Maybe this is the trick to being married for so long – not adhering to the stupid ideas society present about marriage – wife stays home and keeps house, husband goes off to the office. Didion and her husband seemed to have a collaboration that worked very well for them. They traveled to places all over the world and they sat down at home and “planned.”
On top of the loss of her husband, the year after his death, she is also dealing with the illness of her daughter, who I believe died after this book was published. This is a sad book, but also, I feel like it is a valuable book. The book provides insight to the process of grief and mourning. It also presents a story of what must have been a happy marriage and loving family, and because of that, I enjoyed reading this.

Myth of You and Me by Leah Stewart

I picked up this book because of the title. Silly fact about me – "Myth" is one of my favorite words. I throw it out whenever possible. So the title sounded all dark and mystical. I tend to be much more interested in stories about friendships than romantic relationships and I knew this was a story about friendship. That's all I knew about it.

I didn't realize until I started reading it that it was about a thirty year old looking back on her life -- Someone who didn't feel comfortable in her current setting, someone who was always wanting to run. Suffice it to say instantly I felt a connection with the main character. Also, as I read more of the book, I found it startling that it was about girls growing up in the Southwest and the after effects of living with an abusive mother. Seldom are these situations written about in a realistic manner. There were so many elements in this book that felt like they could have been passages from my life, from driving the west Texas roads to spending your best college days in the newsroom.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. I liked the way it explored the depths of friendships, the hold a friend can have over you, the way one’s betrayal can damage you. At what point do you walk away? What do you forgive? And who are you really hurting, what do you have to gain when you do decide it is time to end a friendship?

This is a really nice book. While I've never experienced any sort of situation like the one mentioned in the book, I, like anyone who has ever had a strong friendship, can certainly relate to the themes of holding on and letting go and choosing to forgive or forget.

My only issue with this book was what was an attempt at suspense. What is the package Camaron is taking to Sonia? I suggest you not focus too much on that. It is interesting, but it isn't nearly as important as the buildup presents it to be. The true value of the book is the small details that make the intensity of the friendship feel true.