Blue NightsBlue Nights by Joan Didion

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

so this is book #2 for didion on the death of a family member, this time her daughter.

think for a moment how you would feel if your spouse and daughter died within a year of each other. no, really, think about it.

i think, in this book, didion is trying to do the near-impossible: make sense of an awful loss, right on top of another awful loss. writing is how writers make sense of the world, and their lives, by choosing and writing down word after word, hoping for some kind of clarity.

this book is most revealing in what it doesn’t reveal. you don’t get the deathbed moment. you don’t get the endless nights in the hospital, or much of the diagnoses and the sickening slide into that realization you’ve been trying so hard to avoid: that the person you love is going to die, is going to be gone forever.

so if you’re looking for a hollywood death, you’re not going to find it here.

if you’re wanting to step through loss with didion, you’re going to have to read between the lines. she isn’t going to tell you what it feels like to look at photographs of her daughter, or what it felt like to see her dead. this book requires a bit of imagination: you have to imagine didion there at her keyboard, looking at a picture of her daughter and choosing the correct next word. didion must have had some kind of superhuman strength, to stay in that moment, to feel her way to some clarity of expression.

of course she sometimes evades. of course she tells some of it slant. those evasions are telling in and of themselves. she’s telling you what can’t be borne, what is too horrifying to examine closely, too awful to stay in the moment with, until the next correct word comes to describe it.

i cannot imagine the effort of writing this book. kudos to you, didion, and i hope you find some peace.