I'm ashamed to say, as a journalist who loves literary journalism, I haven't read much Joan Didion. But, when her book The Year of Magical Thinking came out, I felt drawn to it. The reviews were over-the-top good for this book, and I was going through a particularly difficult time with an illness in the family, too.
In this book, Didion describes a year in her life when her daughter fell into a coma unexpectedly and for unknown reasons, and just days later, after visiting her at the hospital, Didion's husband died instantly at the dinner table from a heart attack. The book starts there. It describes the moments right after he fell out of his chair, the medics arriving, the trip to the hospital, the days that followed. It describes her visiting her unconscious daughter, who eventually does wake up, and having to tell her that her father passed away months earlier. They waited to have the funeral until her daughter was well enough to go. Which, in a way, postponed Didion's own grieving.
The feelings Didion describes - expecting him to be there when she gets home, coming across something of his months later, cleaning out his closet - are heart breaking. She has such random thoughts about him, that to some, she may seem off her rocker. However, if you've ever lost someone close to you - even if it's a pet or just an awful break up of a relationship - you completely understand her. I choked up with every chapter - every chapter. Being newly married at the time, it made me realize even more how heartbroken I will be if hubby should be the one to go first.
This book made me unbelievably sad - not in a depressing way that I wouldn't recommend it to others - but what made my heart break even more was to learn that after the book was published, Didion's daughter fell ill again and passed away, too.
What books have made you feel an emotion - sadness, happiness, anger - so completely?