This is a re-read. I remember being choked up through much of it, while also marveling at Joan Didion's ability to concisely capture an intensely personal experience of loss and grieving. Her ability to make it readable. I wanted to revisit it now, to appreciate it as writing, without being as emotionally wrung out as I was the first time, not knowing the story.
And the story is tragic: her husband of umpteen years keels over dead at the dinner table on Dec. 30, 2003, while their daughter is in a coma after falling ill on Christmas Day. And then her daughter wakes up some time later, and has to be told her father is dead, and later suffers from a brain aneurysm ... I'm going from memory here, but you get the gist. It's grim.
Usually I drop such books like a hot potato as soon as I read the flap copy. I'm averse to maudlin navel-gazing who needs another downer? But a publicist at Book Expo America pressed it on me and said, "You have to read this. I know it sounds awful, but trust me." And it was Didion, after all.
Well, you know the rest of the story already. I read it, I loved it, and Didion won the National Book Award, which you don't get just because you suffered a lot.
I can't be more specific yet about why it's so great. That's why I'm rereading it, and I just started. Plus I'm bad at articulating what I think makes good writing good. But picture me pressing "The Year of Magical Thinking" on you anyway, saying, "I know it sounds awful, but trust me."