As a grief counselor, this book is often on the list of must-reads. It has been sitting on my shelf for a couple of years, so I finally decided this was the time.
Joan Didion is the best-selling author, who, along with her husband, John Dunne, also a novelist, lived a very pampered life. They were used to a jet setting life, between the coasts, writing from picturesque settings like Paris, a life of privilege.
Didion begins with the shocking awareness that her husband has died. While she was getting up from the dinner table, listening to Dunne tell a story, she noticed a lapse. He had become silent mid-sentence. When she turned her head to see why he wasn't continuing with the story, she saw his face has fallen over in the bowl of soup.
The grief of the love of your life is perhaps the worst experience one can experience. However, Didion was also in the middle of another crisis. Their only child, Quintana, had recently been in a coma after suffering from Pneumonia. Her daughter is lying in a hospital in Los Angeles, and her husband is now dead of an apparent heart attack in New York; Didion is thrust into undeniable grief. (Readers already know that Quintana will ultimately pass away two years later, tragically.)
Didion has an incredible memory or perhaps depended on diaries to reconstruct many of the memories she shares throughout the book. The book reads like a person who is in the middle of grief. As the reader follows the authors' flow of grief, you cannot help but feel her pain.
She beautifully captures the sense of grief in Chapter 17, "Grief turns out to be a place none of us know until we reach it. We anticipate (we know) that someone close to us could die, but we do not look beyond the few days or weeks that immediately follow such an imagined death" (188).
There is a cadence to this book that will take the reader on an emotional journey. You will cry and cry harder for Didion as she shares the raw, brutal side of loss. Grade A.