The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion

#67 in my book challenge for the year was Joan Didion’s Year of Magical Thinking. She chronicles the mysterious illness of her daughter and the death of her husband, John Gregory Dunne. It’s beautifully written, and Didion uses repetition masterfully to illustrate the waves of grief. In the end, though, I felt her skill at writing blurred the emotional impact she was purporting to reveal. A hospital worker called her “a pretty cool customer”, and that coolness permeates the book. Her daughter’s serious illness was included primarily as it related to the husband’s death. I was left with many questions about the daughter, though. I kept returning to the image on the dust jacket, in which Didion stands alone, looking sidewise at her husband and daughter. Her narrative echoed the observing isolation of the photo.

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