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.

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