Life changes in the instant
Life changes fast.
Life changes in the instant.
You sit down to dinner and life as you know it ends.
Such are the captivating words emblazoned at the back of the book ‘The Year of Magical Thinking’. In it, Joan Didion paints a devastating and yet touching portrait of her life in the year after her husband passed away. And how did he die? Of a heart attack. At home. Halfway through eating dinner.
It is in the ‘ordinary instant’ that things can change so suddenly. Why do I say ordinary? Because the circumstances of everything that preceded and surrounded a momentous event usually seem ordinary, routine, mundane. The skies were clear blue (as usual), the errand on the way back from work was routine (what’s new?), the room looked exactly as it does every other day (do we even notice?) Such were the ‘ordinary circumstances’ that people who witnessed a sudden, tragic event often recount. It was the same with Pearl Harbour on 7 December 1941, as it was with Dallas on 22 November 1963, as it was with New York on 11 September 2001. Nothing extraordinary. And then – gone. Life as you know it ends.
The rest of the book is beautifully written, not least because her feelings and thoughts are so real and so magical that you find yourself shuttling between past memory and present grief, at once poignant and at the same time painful. At points in the book, the rawness of feelings of grief experienced, grief explored, and grief exhibited become so moving and overwhelming that it is difficult to go on without taking a pause to breathe…and then continue on this journey of magical thinking.