Published October 2005 by Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Source: bought this one on audio from the public library sale
Narrator: Barbara Caruso
From Barnes and Noble:
During the Christmas holidays in 2003, novelist Joan Didion began a month of hell. Just a few days before Christmas, Didion and her husband of 40 years, John Gregory Dunne, watched helplessly as their newly married daughter, Quintana, came down with what seemed to be the flu, then contracted pneumonia, which led, within days, to complete septic shock and system breakdown. A week later, as Quintana hovered close to death, Dunne collapsed and died. Didion plunged into a mad state of "magical thinking." Her response was unfathomable: "We might expect that we will be prostrate, inconsolable, crazy with loss. We do not expect to be literally crazy, cool customers who believe that their husband is about to return and might need his shoes." A mourning no one could ever imagine.
I have read about people's reactions to loss; I have experienced loss in my own life. But I have never thought to read nonfiction books on the subject of grief and certainly never thought to read about any particular person's experiences. If you would have told me I would have found it mesmerizing before I began, I would not have believed you. Yet I found myself fascinated by both the ways that grief bore Didion down but also by her thoughts on grieving and what she learned in the year following her husband's death. For instance, Didion talks about the difference between grief and mourning. She writes about self-pity in the wake of loss, about needing to have answers, about her inability to accept that her husband was never coming back, and about the traps that lay all about her drawing her into the past. Didion's draws the reader in with intimate and honest stories about her marriage, being a parent, and their very unusual life.
I had only a couple of little quibbles with the book. Didion drops names throughout the book, some I knew, some I'm sure I was supposed to know. Where she might simply have said "our friend" she said, instead "our friend Mr. Bigshot." Occasionally, too, where Didion shared what she had learned, the book got dragged down by the details.
The book was greatly enhanced for me by Barbara Caruso's narration; in voice and reading style, Caruso makes the listener believe it is her story. The only drawback to listening to this one rather than reading it? A book version would have been filled with post-it notes of things I wanted to share with you or read again. In fact, at the very end of the book, I finally just recorded a piece that I wanted to share.
"I know why we try to keep the dead alive. We try to keep them alive in order to keep them with us. I also know that if we are to live ourselves, there comes a point at which we must relinquish the dead, let them go, keep them dead, let them become the photograph on the table, the name on the trust accounts, let go of them in the water. Knowing this does not make it any easier to let go of them in the water."