Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Day 14 - A non-fiction book

Is it cheating to write about a memoir? I think it counts! Anyway, The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion is the heartbreakingly factual recounting of the year in which she lost her husband to a heart attack, while meanwhile her daughter was in a coma at a nearby hospital.

The fact that Joan Didion is just an absolutely fantastic writer only makes this true story all the more heart-wrenching. It was a deeply uncomfortable read, as from her descriptions of her emotional journey I felt like I understood so completely what it was like to lose a family member and to have another one whose potential to live or die is completely out of your hands. "Magical Thinking," as per the title, refers to Didion's mental inconsistencies with reality, and how her bereavement (which she noted did pretty predictably follow the medically-dictated stages of grief) changed her very perception of her world. In her own words: "We might expect that we will be prostrate, inconsolable, crazy with loss. We do not expect to be literally crazy, cool customers who believe that their husband is about to return and need his shoes."

This is not an easy book to read, but it is a rewarding one. It's one of the best written books I've ever read, and even as someone who has not personally experienced the kind of grief that she has written about, I felt that by reading her account it could help me reach out to those who had.

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