full title The Year of Magical Thinking
author Joan Didion
type of work Memoir/Essay
genre Memoir, Grief literature
time and place written New York, October 2004 to January 2005
date of first publication October 4, 2005
publisher Alfred A. Knopf
narrator Joan Didion
point of view First person
tone Introspective, melancholy, matter-of-fact
setting (time) December 2003 through December 2004; various times in flashback
setting (place) New York City and Los Angeles; various locations in flashback
protagonist Joan Didion
major conflict Journalist Joan Didion attempts to come to terms with her grief over the sudden death of her husband, John, and her adult daughter Quintana’s serious illness.
rising action Didion must cope with the sudden shock and aftermath of her husband John’s death while caring for her ailing daughter, Quintana.
climax Quintana collapses and undergoes neurosurgery, requiring Didion to fly to Los Angeles to be with her daughter while still reeling from the death of her husband.
falling action As Quintana’s health begins to improve, Joan Didion begins to come to terms with the feelings of helplessness and insanity that dominated the year after her husband’s death.
themes Grief as a state of temporary mental illness, the pathology of grief in American culture, the role of family relationships in shaping individual identity
motifs Magical thinking, the vortex effect, the ordinary instant
symbols Waves, flowers
foreshadowing After she first tells Quintana about her father’s death, Didion reveals that she will have to tell her daughter about her father’s death three times before Quintana absorbs the news.