Monday, April 16, 2012

Book Review: The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion

The Year of Magical ThinkingThe Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I would have never chosen this book.  I would have never looked twice at it on the shelf.  I think that would have been my loss.  Hooray for book clubs!

I find it hard to say that I liked this book. The structure and style are well done, much to be admired in the actual writing of the book ... and it actually represents the substance pretty well, IMO. When she descended into the vortex, the writing felt like that.  The way she kept the reader in the moment while she went on a tangent of thought then brought conclusion to the original, was so well done.  The structure of the year of grief was palpable.

However, the substance was so foreign ... so lonely and empty that I can't say I liked the book as a whole (not disappointed to have read it, though, either). I found her lack of faith in a real God (yet reliance on forms and rituals - such an emphasis on weddings/funerals/Episcopal-Catholic) disturbingly confusing (her "there is no resurrection of the body," refrain from the Gloria Patri, and repeating of no eye upon the sparrow were absolutely jarring to me).

The title is even jarring.  When we think of something "magical" we think of something wonderful, joyous, exciting, pleasant even.  But, here, her magical thinking was despairing, ungraspable, hard, and let her down rather than picking her up.

The book, though, it is making me think about how we grieve, how we mourn with those who mourn, how we love, how we show Christ in difficult situations, how we live in community etc ... these are things I can take away from this book that was somewhat devoid in those things - sometimes opposites are good examples.

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