The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Dideon — 6 years ago
“John said to me as he closed the book. ’Don’t ever tell me again you can’t write. That’s my birthday present to you.’
I remember tears coming to my eyes.
I feel them now.
In retrospect this had been my omen, my message, the early snowfall, the birthday present no one else could give me.
He had twenty-five nights to live." (166)
“Time is the school in which we learn,” writes Joan Dideon in her memoir, ‘The Year of Magical Thinking.’ This book is a chronical of Dideon’s journey through grief following the death of her husband, John Gregory Dunne. Intense, sad and, at times, unapologetically self-indulgent, Dideon draws the reader into her confusion, pain and ‘magical thinking’ – the hope that somehow her husband’s sudden death was a big mistake.
Her story is especially poignant knowing that her daughter Quintana died after the book was published. The back of the dustcover features a photograph of Dideon, Dunne and Quintana at their house in Malibu. Dunne and Quintana are in the foreground, gazing steadfastly at the camera while Dideon gazes wistfully in their direction.
Dideon’s writing is clear and engaging (particularly if you’re a fan of her style) but I found this book difficult to read. Like grief, it’s thick and heavy and trudges on and on and on. Just when you think you’ve seen the light break through the clouds, you’re back in the shadows.
It’s not a book to read for fun, but definitely a book to read for the experience of reading it.