Teaser Tuesdays: A Year of Magical Thinking

This week’s Teaser Tuesdays is a book I had to re-read for book club and I must own it is not a favorite of mine.  I thought I might like it better on the reread but still find it more of a clinical exercise than actual prose. It is Joan Didion’s A Year of Magical Thinking.  Let’s just say I could use with less of Joan’s magic…

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of A Daily Rhythm.

year of magical thinking

Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page.
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers.

I listened to The Year of Magical Thinking and am nearly finished.  My quote is from 3 hr 36 min in :

“When the twilights got long in June I forced myself to eat dinner in the living room where the light was.  After John died I had begun eating by myself in the kitchen. The dining room was too big and the table in the living room was where he had died but when the long twilights came I had a strong sense that he would want me to see the light

I guess there could be some magic in where Joan eats but this quote is emblematic of the blandness of Joan’s insight.  It’s the kind of book that you feel bad for not liking because it clearly meant so much for her to write, but it just didn’t do it for me on this read through or last.

Every journal does not make a good book and that’s essentially what Joan has done.  It feels like her therapist told her to write out her thoughts on the death of her husband and coma of her daughter and she published it.  It seems like she is working out these experiences but not in a compelling way, at least for me.  It’s just I went here, dreamed about this, and look at this study  I found…  There’s a lot of stats and quotes about grieving and typical human responses to things which made it feel oddly detatched from a human response. Joan often felt robotic instead of a mother and wife.  It felt very clinical like something you’d tell a therapist.
I kind of think of it like several books about addiction I’ve read.  Overcoming addiction is one of the hardest things anyone can do. I’ve seen it ravage and take the lives of 2 of my cousins.  However, as narratives go, addiction isn’t a gripping topic for most books.  It’s such a self-contained, even selfish time and to a reader it can feel like wallowing in problems rather than surmounting them.  That’s kind of how Joan’s book feels.  What should be dramatic and moving feels flat, lifeless and boring.
Again, I feel bad criticizing a heartfelt book, but I have enough issues in my life without slogging through the nuts and bolts of Joan’s problems.  It’s all too safe.  Too clinical and not enough of a story for a compelling read. I certainly didn’t find any magic in Joan’s journey.  Sorry… I wish her all the best though and hopefully she eventually has some happiness in her life.
It will be interesting to see what people at book club think.  I know at least several have found it to be rough going.   Have you read it? What did you think?  It won National Book Award so clearly others found it moving.  Just not me.

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