Book Clubbed: Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking 1

Welcome to installation two of Book Clubbed. If you missed installation one and/or don’t know what the hell I’m talking about, go here and enjoy Ammie’s review of Bastard Out of Carolina.  To continue our theme of books that devastate, I present to you a review on Joan Didion‘s The Year of Magical Thinking. Brilliantly/eerily, I just noticed that the ghosted letters on the book cover spell John, Didion’s deceased husband, whom the book is about. Joey from Blossom Whoa, y’all. Anyway, when Devon’s not writing about books, she also dabbles in astrology and writes really hilarious Yelp reviews.


By Devon O’Dell

I picked up Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking in an airport amidst the self-help and Oprah’s book club novels thinking, “Well shoot, I LOVE magical thinking! Magical Reality is like my favorite thing!”

It’s not about that. At all.

It’s a memoir of the year after the death of her husband, a guidebook to the vast and terrifying terrain of grief. We’re all familiar with the shock of violence, desensitized to the event of death. We hear, “He had a heart attack and died,” or “Her husband was killed in a car accident,” and we all feel sorry for an instant and the conversation moves on. It’s the aftermath that Joan Didion writes so well, with a muscular sort of plainness that unravels you.

She writes about grief as a mental illness, something that certainly never had occurred to me, a person who has never experienced profound grief. In one particularly heartbreaking chapter she finds herself unable to give her husband’s shoes away, because he may come back and need them. Her pain forces her to hope that he might. She simply cannot grasp that her husband is gone.

Magical Thinking. The crazy of the bereaved.

And it’s then that your heart breaks for her and also yourself because you fear the day you must attend to the most horrible and yet mundane of chores: LITERALLY letting go of one of the most significant pieces of your life. We are rarely prepared for the experience of grief, even less for how to help those around us in its throes. In that way it’s an extraordinary guide for those who must or wish to care for bereaved people. It helps you understand that showing up is not only ok but necessary, that dinners and close proximity and listening are not only valuable, they’re essential.

This shit will break your fucking heart.

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