“We are not idealized wild things.
We are imperfect mortal beings, aware of that mortality even as we push it away, failed by our very complication, so wired that when we mourn our losses we also mourn, for better or for worse, ourselves. As we were. As we are no longer. As we will one day not be at all.”
I really tried, but I didn’t like this one. I feel like maybe I’m not the right audience. It’s a book about loss, primarily, and heartbreak, and I’ve been very lucky in my life to experience very little of either.
The same cannot be said about Joan Didion, unfortunately.In November of 2003, her daughter Quintana was hospitalized for a severe case of pneumonia. 25 days later, Didion’s husband, John Dunne, died suddenly of a massive heart attack. Several months later, Quintana returns to the hospital for major surgery after suffering a stroke.
The Year of Magical Thinking is a first person account of Didion’s attempts to deal with the unexpected death of her husband while simultaneously caring for their only child. It is a story of about both the necessity and difficulty of allowing oneself to grieve. Didion admits that she tried to focus on Quintana in an effort to avoid grieving for John. She hoped somehow to keep his death from becoming real.
I had trouble connecting to this book, I think, because grief is an immensely personal thing, and I couldn’t find any of my own experiences in Didion’s. Again, I’ve been lucky. However, The Year of Magical Thinking was well written and immensely quotable. I can see how others might benefit from reading it.
“I know why we try to keep the dead alive: we try to keep them alive in order to keep them with us.”
“There was a level on which I believed that what had happened remained reversible.”
“I did not always think he was right nor did he always think I was right but we were each the person the other trusted.”