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Understanding the subject matter of this book, I can’t say that I expected to fly through it but I did think I’d finish it sooner than I did. I was wrong…
It was at times difficult to read, as Joan Didion was taking us back with her to the night her husband, author John Dunne, died suddenly in front of her at dinner, as well as to the days and nights she dealt with her daughter’s sudden illness with her husband and then just as suddenly, without him.
Her strength not only came from her family and friends. It also came from learning… really as she put it: Information. “Information is control” was her mantra and it paved way for her to piecemeal each event as it happened. Not just from medical publications and journals, but literature as well.
It took her about a year to revisit it all. About a year to face it. By seeking her past and holding on to the works of others who’d strived to decipher their grief in art and literature, she was better able to relate her own. As a writer, writing was naturally the only way she could process it.
I remember one aspect of Didion’s analysis of herself towards life, living, death and memory was what she called the “vortex effect”. That really stood out to me, because she named such a thing. That association from one thing that brings on a flood of memories, even so much to the point where all strength is even garnered to avoid seeing said certain place or even person. It made perfect sense.
There were some heart-tugging moments here. They were married for over thirty years. They worked together at home, seldom spent more than several days apart at time. After a time, after his passing, days without him were a bit more bearable. Days followed of not wondering if he was coming back. Days of not thinking about whether or not to donate his shoes, since he might be back to get them. Those days where such thoughts occured were tough to read about...
She reminded me that she was a widow not only going through the grief, but in trying to understand it, she was also leaving her dedication of her love to John in this book, as she read of others who’d done so in poetry and paint.