Joan Didion is an outstanding author, and her The Year of Magical Thinking is a serious, emotional, and relatively complicated book, which is worthy of attention. The Year of Magical Thinking is an autobiographical story based on real tragic events in the life of a successful New York journalist and screenwriter. In 2003 Joan’s life undergone significant dramatic change. First, just five months after her marriage, Joan’s beloved daughter Quintana went into a coma. Afterward, Joan’s husband John died as a result of a heart attack. He was her closest person and not only a husband but a job companion. After his death, Quintana seemed to get better. However, approximately a year after John’s death, Joan’s daughter died too. In just a year, Joan experienced two tragic losses. In the book, Joan describes her painful experiences and bright memories related to her husband and daughter. The Year of Magical Thinking is a concentration of controversial and complicated emotions, which may be hard to read and painful to imagine. The book was written not only as a piece of literature but as a part of psychological therapy prescribed for Joan to help her overcome the pain.
Joan describes touching moments of her life related to John and Quintana, which seem to be essential for her. Such as flowers she chose for her daughter’s wedding or the color of sun-streaked Quintana’s hair in childhood (Didion, 2021). The Year of Magical Thinking received U.S. National Book Award in 2006, and a one-woman play was set with Vanessa Redgrave.
How does your memoir ultimately end? Were you satisfied with the ending? Why or why not?
The Year of Magical Thinking ends with Joan’s thoughts about the whole year. She talks about her feelings and emotions on December 31, 2004, a year and a day after the events (Didion, 2021). She admits that she does not want to finish the year and that period of time as she understands that with time her memories will start to perish, and she will get more and more remote from her beloved daughter and husband (Didion, 2021). She acknowledges that it may be necessary to let these memories go and not “keep the dead alive” but “keep them dead” (Didion, 2021). It may be needed to overcome the loss and to live on. It does not mean that it is required to forget the past, yet a person should not become obsessed with it. I, personally, was satisfied with the ending. The book tells a very complicated story, and even though the ending is still full of strong emotions, it brings a sense of relief. Past is in the past, and life continues, the dead remain the dead and “become the photograph on the table.” In my opinion, the book has an open but life-affirming ending. Even though Joan feels sad about letting these memories go, she understands that her life continues.
If you have to provide a rating from 1-5 stars for your memoir, what would you give it? Explain your decision
Frankly speaking, I loved the book. Although it may be hard to read and it may cause very strong and even negative emotions, it helps you better understand how to cope with losses. Unfortunately, death is inevitable, and most of us will experience a loss of a close person throughout life. It may be crucial to prepare yourself for such tragic events and stay strong. I would personally give that book a well-deserved 5-star rating.
Didion, J. (2021). The year of magical thinking. 4th Estate.