The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion
I’ve wanted to read this for a while. I haven’t read any of Ms. Didion’s other works, but this felt compelling. My sister had a copy at her house, which I was visiting this past week, so I borrowed it, reading it in a couple of days and finishing it on a particularly turbulent flight home. As I read the pages of her working through attempts to make sense of the fact that her husband was dead, I recognized a bit of dark humor in the thought that if this plane doesn’t make it home, the last thing I will have read will have been about death.
It’s an interesting book. It felt like a personal journal, and to a degree it is. It’s a very intellectual journal, filled with quotes from literature I haven’t read, allusions to culture that I can’t relate to. It somehow manages to be a meditation on grief without being particularly sad, and I mean that in a positive way. The book isn’t filled with pages where the reader must hold back tears (at least, a reader who hasn’t experienced that kind of loss – widows, widowers and parents who have lost children might disagree), it is instead filled with a bit of that stream-of-consciousness that you might expect from someone trying to figure out exactly what has happened, and what they might have done to precipitate it.
I don’t know if it’s a book for someone who has recently lost someone; it might be helpful to recognize things they themselves are experiencing. But I do think it’s something that we all can benefit from reading, filled with some information to be filed away to help start to understand when people we care about lose people they care about.