Monday, July 28, 2008

Dealing with Death

I just finished reading The Year of Magical Thinking, by Joan Didion. The memoir chronicles the year after the death of Didion's husband. It is an interesting treatise on grief and mourning, if a bit too cerebral at times.

Didion's husband, John, dies from a cardiac event right before Christmas. Shortly before his death, the couple's daughter, Quintana, suffered an embolism which led to her hospitalization. So basically, Didion has to deal with the death of her husband of 40 years while caring for her hospitalized daughter, who is still clinging to life.

Didion had, I thought, many interesting things to say about the death of a loved one - how we never expect life to change so drastically, so quickly. How we can never really know what to expect, how we will feel, until it happens to us. How most of us may think of our reactions to death in immediate terms - the funeral, etc. - but we never adequately consider the long years of absence thereafter, and how we will deal with those. How, despite what our rational mind knows (this person is gone forever, etc.), part of us still hopes/thinks they will return to us, miraculously.

My only criticism of the book is Didion's tendency to over-intellectualize everything. By turns this habit was both interesting and tiresome. Having read the book, though, my guess is that this is the kind of person she is. I would bet that, were I to read one of her novels, I would find the same penchant for the slightly pretentious.

At any rate, I enjoyed the book. Out of five start, I'd give it three or so. Not a must-read, but worth picking up if you have some time.

1 comment:

Sandi said...

You read such interesting books ... love your reviews