I've just finished reading The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion.
She describes how she dealt with her grief after the death of her husband, the writer John Gregory Dunne, and how the whole thing was complicated by the fact that their daughter was seriously ill in hospital at the same time.
Didion writes very clearly and pulls no punches. You follow her willingly, even when you feel as though she goes forward and then reverses and you slightly miss the thread. You are not off course for long though. She pulls you into her world of confusion, the magic she refers to in the title.
There is some startling insight into what happens to someone when they suffer this kind of loss - one understands that the case is made more unique because we're talking about a woman who's had a certain life and dealt with things in her famously cool, direct way. The whole wretched story is compounded by the illness of their daughter, Quintana.
Some of the lines you read in this book you will jot down, hoping to remember to dig them out when the need arises. Some of the thought processes are unique and spot on. This would be recommended reading for anyone who has experienced loss. For anyone who wants to be ready.
There are some weak points for me, however.
There is a tendency towards repetition. The nail is hit on the head far too many times. We understand the points made. Sometimes we are told again and again what connection to make. This may be part of the magical thinking. Little lines come back throughout the book - it works well in some places but a nerve is scraped in others.
I also wanted to know more about Quintana. How did she cope? What exactly happened to her in the end? She is referred to in some detail and then there is nothing. I understand the book is from Joan Didion's perspective, but the uniqueness of that situation were the terrible circumstances that drew in Quintana. It wouldn't have needed much. A few lines here and there to give her a small voice in amongst everything.
I believe the good reviews were warranted. I would recommend this, but I wouldn't say it takes your breath away.