Monday, January 09, 2006

Year of Magical Thinking (copy)

Would you like to add more books to your life? Maybe read something other than work policies or school assignments? There are so many books out there, ready to entertain and delight you. Why not start the New Year by resolving to read one extra book a month just for fun? A book you might like to share with a friend or read-aloud to a little one.

It is so easy to add more books to your life if you just pick interesting ones. Here is where I would like to help. Let me be your guide to what is on the shelves at your local bookstore or library. Possibly, tempt you with a read aloud for your children or inspire your book club to tougher discussions. Maybe, reacquaint you with a classic or introduce a new author. I read a variety subjects and all types of books.

In honor of the New Year, I would like to suggest Joan Didion's A Year of Magical Thinking. A book that grabs grief by the neck, strangles it, and then tries to discern why. From the very first chapter you are thrown into Didion's year of madness from the death of husband John Dunne. A devoted spouse that edits her writing, finishes her sentences, completes her in every way.

Didion's year of disbelief begins December 30, 2003. She and John are returning home from a very stressful visit with hospitalized daughter, Quintana. Didion moves quickly to build a fire and start dinner. Her main goal, provide a decent night after the horrible day. She hands John a Scotch and leaves him to forget his daughter's troubles in a new book. As she tosses the salad, John makes a comment about the Scotch. He then raises his hand in a gesture she mistakes as a joke. One minute they are smiling, comfortable, on the edge of relaxation then life ends.

By the third chapter we begin to understand Didion's book title. She magically doesn't believe her husband is dead. Yes, she is there when the heart attack occurs. Yes, she greets the case worker that tells her John is dead. Yes, she even watches as they inter his ashes at St. John, yet still doesn't believe. Where is her shock, her grief, and just where is her husband?

Although, I paint a grim picture, the book does have some lighter moments. It is as intimate as CS Lewis’ A Grief Observed yet not something you want to recommend to a recent widow. Read it if you are in a place where reflection is welcomed, set aside if emotions raw.

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