Reviews in 200 Words

The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion (Guest Punch: Katy Welter)

In Memoir--Reviewed by Katy Welter on April 28, 2010 at 4:52 pm

After forty years of extraordinary marriage, Joan Didion’s husband slumped over the dinner table, dead of common cardiac arrest. Meanwhile, their daughter’s health declines gradually and terribly. Thus begins Didion’s year of introspection and research into both sudden and continual loss. The book is about dedication to writing as much as marriage. It reads like a movie, transitioning in time and setting, examining the life of two writers who worked within earshot of one another. Didion depicts grief with such poignancy that you’ll fear you’ve seen your own future (for months she wakes up alone in bed feeling the hollow aura that she and John have had a fight, only to re-discover he is dead). Yet, curiously, for each piece of universal wisdom, the book references an upscale restaurant, person, or locale, which most readers won’t recognize. Didion places these barriers as if to say, “You can know about us, but we are still different from you.” Because what could be more essential to marriage than its singularity? The conviction that you are one another’s one and only. Through meticulous autopsy, Didion tries to recollect this private world. Magical thinking, she learns, cannot resuscitate love. But memoir can preserve it.

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