Book Review: The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion


My Rating: 4.5 stars

Title: The Year of Magical Thinking

Author: Joan Didion

Pub Date: February 13, 2007

Pages: 227

For People Who Like: Poetic Writing, Self-Reflection, and Nonfiction

Bri’s Thoughts

This was a beautifully written self-reflection on how Joan Didion processed the death of her husband and then her daughter. It is hard for a person who has never had to deal with the type of grief that Didion went through to try to comprehend how someone could possibly cope with it. However, with this book, the reader can get that kind of insight.

I wasn’t sure that I wanted to read this book at first because of how sad I knew it would make me feel (it did). Nonetheless, I picked this up for a class that I was going to take in the fall. Even though I am no longer planning on taking that class, I am still glad that I read this. I feel like knowing more about the thought processes going on behind someone who is in mourning can help others have more empathy and know how to better handle the healing process.

This is also a good book to pick up if you are currently or ever have been in mourning. Didion’s analytical thought processes behind how to handle her losses were such an interesting way to look at life.

Overall, a rare look at something that nobody wishes to go through.


‘An act of consummate literary bravery, a writer known for her clarity allowing us to watch her mind as it becomes clouded with grief.’

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 “weeks 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.”