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Year of Magical Thinking (Didion) - Book Reviews

Book Reviews
In her devastating new book, The Year of Magical Thinking, Ms. Didion writes about the year she spent trying to come to terms with what happened that terrible December.... It is an utterly shattering book that gives the reader an indelible portrait of loss and grief and sorrow, all chronicled in minute detail with the author's unwavering, reportorial eye.
Michiko Kakutani - New York Times


Though the material is literally terrible, the writing is exhilarating and what unfolds resembles an adventure narrative…As in Didion's previous writing, her sense of timing, sentence by sentence and in the arrangement of scenes, draws the reader forward. Her manner is deadpan funny, slicing away banality with an air that is ruthless yet meticulous.
Robert Pinsky - New York Times Book Review


The Year of Magical Thinking, though it spares nothing in describing Didion's confusion, grief and derangement, is a work of surpassing clarity and honesty. It may not provide "meaning" to her husband's death or her daughter's illness, but it describes their effects on her with unsparing candor. It was not written as a self-help handbook for the bereaved but as a journey into a place that none of us can fully imagine until we have been there.
Jonathan Yardley - Washington Post


A number of fictional attempts have been made to portray what might lead a teenager to kill a number of schoolmates or teachers, Columbine style, but Shriver's is the most triumphantly accomplished by far. A gifted journalist as well as the author of seven novels, she brings to her story a keen understanding of the intricacies of marital and parental relationships
Publishers Weekly


On December 30, 2003, Didion witnessed the death of her husband, John Gregory Dunne, from a massive coronary in their living room. The couple had just returned home after visiting their daughter, Quintana, who had been hospitalized and placed on life support several days earlier, diagnosed with a severe case of septic shock. Several weeks later, their daughter recovered, only to collapse two months later from a massive hematoma that required emergency brain surgery and an arduous recovery. (Quintana Roo Dunne Michael died on August 26, 2005.) This work is both a memoir of Didion's family life and a meditation chronicling the course of her grief. Throughout this account she describes her attempts to study grief, reading extensively on the topic because "information was control." While the events and emotions disclosed are tragic and uncomfortable, the author's description of her relationship with her husband and daughter lend beauty to the tragedy. —Dawn Eckenrode, Daniel A. Reed Lib., SUNY-Fredonia
Library Journal


A moving record of Didion's effort to survive the death of her husband and the near-fatal illness of her only daughter. In late December 2003, Didion (Where I Was From, 2003, etc.) saw her daughter, Quintana Roo Dunne, hospitalized with a severe case of pneumonia, the lingering effects of which would threaten the young woman's life for several months to come. As her daughter struggled in a New York ICU, Didion's husband, John Gregory Dunne, suffered a massive heart attack and died on the night of December 30, 2003. For 40 years, Didion and Dunne shared their lives and work in a marriage of remarkable intimacy and endurance. In the wake of Dunne's death, Didion found herself unable to accept her loss. By "magical thinking," Didion refers to the ruses of self-deception through which the bereaved seek to shield themselves from grief-being unwilling, for example, to donate a dead husband's clothes because of the tacit awareness that it would mean acknowledging his final departure. As a poignant and ultimately doomed effort to deny reality through fiction, that magical thinking has much in common with the delusions Didion has chronicled in her several previous collections of essays. But perhaps because it is a work of such intense personal emotion, this memoir lacks the mordant bite of her earlier work. In the classics Slouching Toward Bethlehem (1968) and The White Album (1979), Didion linked her personal anxieties to her withering dissection of a misguided culture prey to its own self-gratifying fantasies. This latest work concentrates almost entirely on the author's personal suffering and confusion—even her husband and daughter make but fleeting appearances—without connecting them to the larger public delusions that have been her special terrain. A potent depiction of grief, but also a book lacking the originality and acerbic prose that distinguished Didion's earlier writing.
Kirkus Reviews




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