The word that comes to my mind when I think of describing this book is "raw".
Joan Didion in no way romanticizes the loss of a loved one and the grieving process that one goes through following their death. "You sit down to dinner..." is a phrase she often repeats throughout this book. It's as if she's trying to digest what's happened, still in shock at the suddeness of it all. She and her husband sat down to dinner one night after visiting their sick daughter in the hospital and her husband had a heart attack, dying instantly. She recalls the details of what happened that night and the nights that followed throughout the book, and the feelings that accompanied these memories. Her denial of the reality of it is so heart-breaking, yet so real. I can relate to how she thinks, reminiscing over the past and things said to each other and how something as simple as a plant can invoke memories that inevitably bring tears. As a writer, herself, she has ways of describing things and comparing to what others have said that make it seem like you're the one grieving, although, I have to admit I truly felt like I was grieving with her. "The question of self-pity" is another phrase she often repeats, trying to find her way through this grieving process, trying to become herself without her husband there. Her grieving is put on hold, so to speak, due to her daughter being in the hospital with pneumonia and septic shock, followed by another hospital stint caused by a hemorrhage in her brain. But when she's finally able to focus on herself, she finds it hard to go through the motions of everyday life because, as a writer, she's worked at home with her husband, who was also a writer who worked at home. I found it interesting and almost endearing that she kept things like his shoes, because somewhere in her mind, while she was in the denial stage of grieving, she thought he'd need them when he came home. It wasn't until she saw the autopsy report several months later that she was finally able to accept that he wasn't coming home. She goes through in her mind how she could've prevented this, how she could fix it. She goes through a depression of sorts, when she's crying all the time about little things that remind her of something she said or did with her husband. She did go through the anger stage, because I remember her being angry that her daughter's doctor wanted to take the trach out. It was a silly thing, but that's where her anger ended up being directed. By the end of the year, she was sort of coming into an acceptance phase, attempting to move on and keep living. One can feel the pain and emotional scarring that was left by this tragic event in this woman's life and I have to say, I feel fortunate to have been one of the readers she has shared her story with.
For a peak inside, click here. I do recommend reading it, especially if you've lost someone close to you. I can guess that knowing someone else has gone through this exact same thing would, in some way, be comforting.