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"The Year of Magical Thinking" by Joan Didion

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"The Year of Magical Thinking" by Joan Didion , is a story written the year, following the death of her husband John Gregory Dunne. Days before the death of her husband, their daughter Quintana was hospitalized with pneumonia in a New York hospital, which later turned into septic shock. It is a classy story in the category of "Mourning literature".

The story can be considered as a "Creative Non-fiction"  because, throughout the story Didion includes her personal feelings and memoirs in a first person narrative, describing the chaos she faced and the ways in which they forces her to perceive the world. In this story we can see that Didion rejects conventional style of fiction writing, and instead prefers to create a subjective approach to the story, a style that is her own. The tone of the entire story is unsentimental and the author's voice is precise, which conveys the muffled sensibility the author must have been experiencing the entire year following her beloved husband's sudden demise. The main themes discussed in the story are death, illness, probability and luck, good and bad fortune, family relationships etc. The other apparent themes are about the ways in which each individual deal with the fact that there is an end to life, about the shallowness of wisdom and about life itself. One of the motifs found in the story is "the question of self-pity" as the author struggles to find a state acceptable to herself. Another motif is the 'Magical thinking' which is an innocent thought process that we have complete control over the things that happen around us and change the world as per the intensity of our needs and desires. Didion also successfully integrates medical and psychological research on grief and illness into the book. In the story we see Didion reading thick medical books on Clinical Neuroanatomy and books like “Intensive Care: A Doctor’s Journal” by John F. Murray, but in the end Didion realizes that, just as she could not prevent her beloved husband from dying, she cannot make her daughter better, no matter how much she learns or reads or how much she promises to protect her daughter. In recognizing this overall lack of control, the author is better able to acknowledge the impact the grief has had on her, and in doing so learn how to “go with the swell” and live her life forward.

This is a story that must be read not just for the plain honesty of its content or for the simple beauty of its prose, but because in the end it is not about the dead but about those who go on living despite all hardships life gives them.

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