3 Aug

Sometimes a book picks you because it just knows ……

The day I received this book, I slowly skimmed the pages and found that I couldn’t put it down. This was not an easy book to read, but it was right. It knew. Turns out, Magical Thinking has not let go of me since I read it. Within Didion’s exceptional way of navigating through the mystical side of words, I found myself attempting to bear out, what certainly is the in-depth mourning of the ones that are left behind.

There are some critics who define this book as nothing more than pretentious drivel; that the only reason it was published at all was the fact that Didion was already an acclaimed writer. I think these reviews must certainly have come from people who completely missed the point of the book.

As Didion writes, “Grief turns out to be a place none of us know until we reach it.”

In 2003, John Dunne and Joan Didion were sitting down to dinner, talking. Then, suddenly, he wasn’t talking anymore. Just like that. A massive coronary. In the blink. Married 40 years, both were writers. A commonality that filled their lives with wonderful sounds. In 2004, magical thinking began taking the place of those sounds, and Joan Didion – as she was known, was no more.

This book is a tour de force journey through the life of one person as her thoughts are transformed by grief; a distraction of life in the details of death; and most assuredly, the shallowness of sanity. A master writer.

John and Joan

Tragic coda:

On August 26, 2005, eighteen months after the death of John Dunne, and one month before the book was to be published, Quintana Roo Dunne, the only child of John Dunne and Joan Didion, died from acute pancreatitis at the age of 39.

When asked by her publisher if she wanted to change the manuscript to reflect her daughter’s death? “It’s finished.” was all she said.





Didion and Quintana at John’s funeral 2003




Quintana’s ashes are alongside her father at St. John the Divine in New York.  Ms. Didion continues to write.


Alfred a Knopf, Inc. 2005 (out of print)

1st Vintage International Edition (a division of Random House)

2007/Soft cover – 227 pages



  1. Recniky August 10, 2015 at 8:59 p08 #

    I love your take on this book. I have to be honest and say that it is near the very top of a stack of books I am currently reading, waiting it’s turn.

    I am a fan of Didion, aside from this book/the topic of this book, which is one reason it stood out to me. Another reason is that I am currently writing a book on grief; I have one chapter close to being cleanly revised.

    You have the gift of insight and the ability to use language to share your insights clearly.

    Thank you, Jo

  2. Recniky August 10, 2015 at 8:59 p08 #

    Also… thank you for liking my About page on Inklings of a Bookworm. I am truly enjoying touring around your website here! You’ve got some _great_ photos here!

    • WORDMAN August 10, 2015 at 8:59 p08 #

      Thank you very kindly, and welcome to Wordman.


  1. THE WHITE ALBUM « WORDMAN - September 2, 2012

    […] got to know Joan Didion after I read The Year of Magical Thinking. A Tour de Force non-fiction account on the death of her husband and the year spent in grief over […]

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