Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The Year of Magical Thinking

Themed Book Challenge

In a sincere effort to complete the Themed Book Challenge this month, I read The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion. This is nonfiction personal account losing her husband and her daughter. I had never read anything by this author and was amazed at the detailed manner in which she wrote about such a raw, personal experience.

In chapter ten, Didion introduces the "vortex effect" which made me glad I put this on my Getting Back in the Game themed reading list. The power of familiar places, objects, or phrases to take us back to "the way things were before" is common to all experiences that we must get through and from which we must move on.

In the final chapter, the author states:

"I know why we try to keep the dead alive; we try to keem them alive in order to keep them with us." (Didion, p. 225)

I feel this also applies to relationships gone sour. We want to hang on the what we feel were "the good times". Moving from "we" to "I" and being open to a new "we" takes you through a very similar process. Respectfully, they are not the same. With divorce or breakup there is still the possibility of positive interactions, no matter how unlikely. In death interaction is no longer possible.

"I could not count the time during the average day that something would come up that I needed to tell him. This impulse did not end with his death. What ended was the possibility of response." (Didion, p. 194)

The message learned from this novel is that as time moves on we gain chronological distance from experiences of loss. In our simple efforts to continue living and be productive, we build new memories, learn to manuveur the rises and falls of life, and gradually get back in the game.

Rating: 8/10
Heavy reading for some. Would not recommend it to anyone who might not appreciate Didion's detailed analytical style.

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