Friday, December 02, 2011

Blue Nights by Joan Didion

This book is so very sad.  Blue Nights is Joan Didion's collection of thoughts on the loss of her daughter.  She doesn't write specifically about her daughter's death, but rather about her daughter's absence from her life now. 

A few years ago, Didion wrote The Year of Magical Thinking about the loss of her husband, and the year that followed his loss.  I seem to recall that book being more structured.  Blue Nights isn't about a certain time period.  It's more about what Didion is going through as a parent who has lost her child, as a parent who assumed that her child would outlive her and be around now.

What broke my heart the most was when she talked about how we hold onto things in hopes of saving memories of important moments, only to look back on those items, cards and photographs and wish that we'd worked harder at enjoying that moment. 

Didion has lost so many people in her life, and she's struggling with the idea of getting older and having to do this without the people who were most important to her.

She also reflects quite a bit on parenthood, and worries about things she may have done wrong.  She's fixated on certain events.  She thinks maybe her daughter was adversely affected by being adopted and that maybe her parenting skills were off.  But as a reader, an outsider looking in, and someone who has never been a parent, but has spent plenty of time around children, I can't help but think that it's normal for parents to question their own parenting skills.  I think any parent who assumes they did everything right is probably very much in denial.  I didn't get the impression that she was a bad parent or that her daughter suffered much.  I think that Didion is probably just spending a lot of time thinking and re-thinking and over analyzing the events in her life.  She's a writer, that's what writers do.  She's seeking an answer, wondering what she could have done differently.

I very much enjoy Didion's writing and this was no exception.  But reading this broke my heart over and over again.  This book made me think of people I've lost, of moments I tried to hold onto, of things I've done wrong and things I wished I'd done differently and the horror that I can't change the past to remedy my mistakes.  It also made me realize that I'm going to grow old alone and it made me a little bit glad that I won't have people to lose and that my own alone-ness will be fully expected, unlike Didion, who thought her daughter would be there with her as she grew older.

I'd recommend this book to anyone.  It's just one of those books I think people should read.

finished reading: Dec. 2, 2011

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