Book #114 was The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion. The back of the book reads:
From one of America’s iconic writers, a stunning book of electric honesty and passion. Joan Didion explores an intensely personal yet universal experience: a portrait of a marriage – and a life, in good times and bad – that will speak to anyone who has ever loved a husband or wife or child.
Several days before Christmas 2003, John Gregory Dunne and Joan Didion saw their only daughter, Quintana, fall ill with what seemed at first flu, then pneumonia, then complete septic shock. She was put into an induced coma and placed on life support. Days later – the night before New Year’s Eve – the Dunnes were just sitting down to dinner after visiting the hospital when John Gregory Dunne suffered a massive and fatal coronary. In a second, this close, symbiotic partnership of forty years was over. Four weeks later, their daughter pulled through. Two months after that, arriving at LAX, she collapsed and underwent six hours of brain surgery at UCLA Medical Center to relieve a massive hematoma.
This powerful book is Didion’s attempt to make sense of the â€œweeks and then months that cut loose any fixed idea I ever had about death, about illness . . . about marriage and children and memory . . . about the shallowness of sanity, about life itself.â€
I didn’t dislike this book, but I didn’t really get anything out of it either. It is a difficult subject matter â€“ no one wants to think about their closest loved ones dying â€“ but what makes Didion’s grief any different than anyone else’s? There isn’t even any sort of insight into how one should deal with their grief and move on (or at least forward), because Didion didn’t deal with it, she wallowed in it, using it as an excuse to essentially check out of life. The only thing I found even a little insightful was at the beginning, when she talks about grief being a mental illness rather than some temporary condition. I think the book might have been more interesting if it had been written later and was about both the death of her husband and her daughter (who did eventually pass away in 2005).
As a side note, this was the selection for my book club this month, and it was universally disliked. Most of the women in the group are over 50, and I think their general thought was "Oh, just get over it already!"
Page count: 227 | Approximate word count: 56,750