Sunday, May 06, 2007

The Year of Magical Thinking

I just finished reading this month's book group selection, Joan Didion's The Year of Magical Thinking. It chronicles Didion's first year as a widow, during which her daughter was also seriously ill. Didion objectively recounts a journey into paralyzing grief as she tries to cope with losing her husband of forty years and the prospect of losing her daughter. It combines her raw emotions of loss with the clarity of hindsight into her marriage. Her speculation of whether he had premonitions of his own death is intertwined with instances which she terms "the vortex"- the tendency of routine sights to trigger a cascade of memories. It was beautiful, and heartbreaking. Stunning with its nakedness and at times I laughed out loud as she admits to the absurdity of her thoughts during that horrific year. It was the absolute wrong book to read days before leaving my husband for the summer.

6 comments:

Christopher said...

Anna and I have been fascinated by the interviews of her that we have heard. We have the book, but neither of us has read it yet - your thoughts on it just renewed my interest. We've been waiting for your arrival to introduce you to Infidel, a remarkable book by Ayaan Hirsi Ali that chronicles her upbringing in a traditional Somali Muslim family and her journey to break from her religion to become an independent thinker who questions the teachings of Islam. It's quite a story.

lefty_grrrl said...

Wow - that good, huh?

Scott said...

Sorry, but I'll take a pass. If a movie is about someone who dies of cancer, I take a rain check. I was totally duped by Million Dollar Baby. It was about a girl that boxes for Christ's sake. Yeah, right!

jmb said...

I heard her speak on the radio and thought she was a wonderful speaker. Afterwards I read the book, which I was looking forward to so much but I was disappointed. Not nearly as interesting as I thought it was going to be. I also found it a bit repetitive. That said I did feel for her, what a horrible thing to live through.
jmb

mom said...

is there a right book to read before you leave your husband for the whole summer??

magnetbabe said...

dad-
Per mom's idea I'm not bringing any of my own books with me. Between all of you, I have my very own library to choose from!

lefty-
I wouldn't say "that good", I'd say powerful. And interesting.

scott-
The book was nonfiction and it was almost like a 200+ page essay. If I were you, I'd read it just to appreciate Didion's writing style and sense of observation. It wasn't a tearjerker or a chick book. My book club isn't like that ;)

jmb-
Welcome! I think I've seen you over at brainy's. I didn't hear the radio interview, and if you were disappointed in the book afterwards I'm glad I didn't hear it. Maybe now that I'm done I'll look it up. I see what you are saying about the repetitiveness but I think it fit in with her almost stream of consciousness style. You're right though. One of those things that makes me feel bad for all the little things I gripe about.

mom-
No, there isn't. I shouldn't be reading at all, I should just be staring lovingly into his eyes. ;)