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The Year of Magical Thinking summary

Joan Didion

Lessons of loss

3.9 (90 ratings)
35 mins

Brief summary

The Year Of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion is a poignant memoir that explores grief, loss, and the author's journey through a year of mourning.
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    The Year of Magical Thinking
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    Joan’s story of loss began under circumstances that were simultaneously extraordinary and ordinary.

    On the evening of December 30, 2003, Joan Didion and her husband, the writer John Gregory Dunne, sat down for dinner in the living room of their apartment on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. 

    In some ways, the circumstances were highly unusual. Joan and John had just gotten back from the intensive care unit of Beth Israel Medical Center, where their 37-year-old daughter Quintana had been hospitalized. 

    Five days prior, on Christmas morning, Quintana had been taken to the emergency room with what seemed like a severe case of the common flu. It turned out to be pneumonia, which soon began to spread, sending her body into life-threatening septic shock. By the evening of December 30, she was entering her fifth night of unconsciousness. Her chances of survival lay somewhere between 56 to 69 percent.

    Needless to say, the possibility of their daughter dying weighed heavily on Joan and John’s minds. The death of a child is always one of the most heartbreaking prospects that a parent can contemplate, but in this case, it would have been all the more tragic given the fact that Quintana had just gotten married five months earlier.

    On that day, July 26, 2003, she’d been a joyful bride – leaving the wedding ceremony at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine with her entire married life in front of her. Now she was lying comatose in a hospital bed – her debilitated body being kept alive by a breathing tube, arterial lines and IV bags delivering a host of antibiotics with grim-sounding names: azithromycin, clindamycin, gentamicin, vancomycin. 

    Those were the extraordinary circumstances in which Joan and John sat down for dinner on the evening of December 30. But in other ways, it was just an ordinary occasion – one of the thousands of dinners they’d had together in their almost 40 years of marriage. As on so many other evenings before, Joan made a fire, prepared a meal and fixed a drink for John. 

    They were in the middle of an equally ordinary-seeming conversation at the dinner table when it happened. John was saying something either about the scotch he was drinking or the historical significance of WWI – Joan can’t remember which. Then, all of a sudden, he stopped talking and slumped forward in his chair. Joan thought he was trying to play some sort of joke on her.

    “Don’t do that,” she said. 

    John didn’t respond. 

    He wasn’t joking. 

    He’d just suffered a cardiac arrest.

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    What is The Year of Magical Thinking about?

    The Year of Magical Thinking (2005) is a poignant memoir about loss and grief. It tells the deeply personal story of Joan Didion’s experiences with the life-threatening illnesses of her daughter and the death of her husband. But more than that, it’s also a thought-provoking philosophical exploration of the meaning of mortality, the fragility of life and the mutability of everything that surrounds us.

    The Year of Magical Thinking Review

    The Year Of Magical Thinking (2005) is a deeply moving examination of grief, love, and resilience. Here's why this book is an essential read:

    • It offers a raw, honest portrayal of the author's experience with loss and mourning.
    • The book provides universal insights into the human experience of grief, making it relatable and comforting.
    • It serves as a powerful reminder of the importance of love and connection in our lives.

    Experience the profound wisdom and emotional depth of The Year Of Magical Thinking.

    Who should read The Year of Magical Thinking?

    • Anyone who’s felt anguish over another person’s life-threatening illness 
    • Those who have experienced the loss of a loved one
    • Anyone who wants to understand the nature of grief 

    About the Author

    Joan Didion was an American writer. Her critically acclaimed works span a wide range of genres and forms: literature, screenplays, memoirs, essays and journalism. They include Slouching Towards Bethlehem, which was one of the seminal works of the New Journalism movement; Play It as It Lays, which Time magazine named one of its “100 Best English-language Novels from 1923 to 2005”; and the screenplay for True Confessions, which she co-wrote with her husband, John Gregory Dunne.

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    The Year of Magical Thinking FAQs 

    What is the main message of The Year Of Magical Thinking?

    The main message of The Year Of Magical Thinking is the exploration of grief, loss, and the process of mourning.

    How long does it take to read The Year Of Magical Thinking?

    It takes approximately 4-6 hours to read The Year Of Magical Thinking. The Blinkist summary can be read in about 15 minutes.

    Is The Year Of Magical Thinking a good book? Is it worth reading?

    The Year Of Magical Thinking is a poignant and deeply moving memoir that offers universal insights into grief and loss.

    Who is the author of The Year Of Magical Thinking?

    The author of The Year Of Magical Thinking is Joan Didion.

    How many chapters are in The Year Of Magical Thinking?

    The Year Of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion has 24 chapters.

    1. Life changes fast
    2. Life changes in the instant
    3. The ordinary instant
    4. The way we live now
    5. The vortex effect
    6. The question of self-pity
    7. The clinical
    8. Magical thinking
    9. The vortex
    10. The extended present
    11. The vortex: Malibu
    12. The vortex: Brentwood
    13. The vortex: Hollywood
    14. The vortex: Berkeley
    15. The vortex: Paris
    16. The vortex: New York
    17. The vortex: Honolulu
    18. The vortex: Los Angeles
    19. The vortex: Quintana
    20. The vortex: John
    21. The vortex: the hospital
    22. The vortex: the house
    23. The vortex: the books
    24. The vortex: the clothes

    How many pages are in The Year Of Magical Thinking?

    The Year Of Magical Thinking has 227 pages.

    When was The Year Of Magical Thinking published?

    The Year Of Magical Thinking was published in 2005.

    What to read after The Year of Magical Thinking?

    If you're wondering what to read next after The Year of Magical Thinking, here are some recommendations we suggest:
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