Sunday Book Review – Well Behaved Wives by Amy Sue Nathan

My Sunday book review is for Amy Sue Nathan’s – Well Behaved Wives. This book takes place in the early 60s where most women were coming into themselves and waking up for and beginning to stand up for their equal rights. But there are many places where that kind of ambition and talk is just nonsense. Ruth Applebaum is the main character and will have you cheering for her all through the facade she must keep up, hiding her true ambition.

This book is available on Amazon

Blurb:

Perfect wives, imperfect lives, and upending the rules of behavior in 1960s America.

Law school graduate and newlywed Ruth Appelbaum is acclimating to life and marriage in a posh Philadelphia neighborhood. She’ll do almost anything to endear herself to her mother-in-law, who’s already signed up Ruth for etiquette lessons conducted by the impeccably accessorized tutor Lillian Diamond. But Ruth brings something fresh to the small circle of housewives—sharp wit, honesty, and an independent streak that won’t be compromised.

Right away Ruth develops a friendship with the shy Carrie Blum. When Carrie divulges a dark and disturbing secret lurking beneath her seemingly perfect life, Ruth invites Lillian and the Diamond Girls of the etiquette school to finally question the status quo.

Together they form an unbreakable bond and stretch well beyond their comfort zones. For once, they’ll challenge what others expect from them, discover what they expect from themselves, and do whatever it takes to protect one of their own—fine manners be damned.

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My 5 Star Review:

This story is set in mid-upper class suburb of Wynnefield, Philadelphia, early 1960s. This is where Ruth has moved to with her newlywed husband Asher after she graduated law school in New York and eloped with Asher. They are living with Asher’s parents Shirley and Leon, with the secret that Ruth is a liberal woman who is studying for the bar exam, and decide not to tell Asher’s parents because his pushy mother Shirley expects Ruth to be an obedient, good Jewish wife and be subservient to her husband.

Shirley decides to send Ruth to her friend Lillian’s private housewife etiquette school at her home where a small group of girls learn how to become the perfect wives, shop, cook, clean, have babies, praise their husbands, and of course, after a day’s work, make sure they get changed into fancy dresses and put on make-up to greet their husbands when they return from a hard day’s work at the office, complete with a cocktail in hand upon their return – almost Madmen-esque. Except Ruth is a sharp and educated young woman and has seen and dealt with things growing up and living in New York that this group of girls she meets are oblivious to – until they become woke.

Ruth came from a family where women were treated equally and she lost her mother at four years old. She is forward thinking for the times. She didn’t want to upset the apple cart by sharing her becoming a lawyer intentions with anyone, until she befriends a few girls in the etiquette class and reveals her education to one of them. These girls also went to college, but not so much for the education, but to snag a husband. Ruth also volunteered to help abused women while back in New York, and somehow observes that there is indeed abuse going on in high society where she now lives, which isn’t exposed, nor believed around the good family value circles she’s now living among. The other girls in her group are Carrie, still childless with a secret, Irene who was made to give up her nursing career once married, and now has four young kids, and Harriet, newly engaged to be married, and both envious and curious about Ruth’s ambition.

Through the story we learn that Lillian’s seemingly perfect life isn’t as fulfilling as she wishes it could be Lillian could have had a career too, she comes to realize, once she learns how independent Ruth is. We can sympathize with Lillian, despite how she comes off at first as ‘Miss Manners’, as we get to know more about her sad childhood that comes to light in conversations, discovering she was raised by her grandparents because her mother was put in an institution when Lillian was only eleven and her father was dead. Until one day, Lillian discovers an old photo of herself with her parents, which compels her to go visit her institutionalized mother – with said, dementia, to see if the picture stirs anything of recognition – then a whole new kettle of fish is discovered – and a terrible secret exposed about what caused her mother to be institutionalized.

Ruth’s husband is crazy about her but keeps putting off the time to share Ruth’s ambitions with his parents. Ruth befriends one of the girls in particular and shares her secret that she has graduated law school and studying for the bar. She suspects this friend is being physically abused by her husband, but the girl denies it and makes excuses for her husband and tries to shut Ruth out of her life, afraid to cause trouble. But Ruth instinctively wants to help her, because it’s part of who she is and what she does – defend powerless women. Later in the book the women are forced to confront the realism of domestic abuse and many secrets of the past are revealed about Lillian and Shirley’s past, and secret lives.

This story takes on many issues about women back in the early 60s. Society dictates what’s expected of them, but some have a voice and go against the norm. Spousal abuse in an upper class surburbia just couldn’t be possible. Respectable men with important jobs would never abuse their wives, would they? And awakenings stir on the topic of mental health, which back in those days didn’t take much to have a woman committed for hysteria or any other dispicable label they could place on one to have them certifiably locked up because their men declared them so.

This book was a time capsule about the place of women back in the early 60s, a nod to how far we’ve come since then, but then again, how much further we have yet to go. I enjoyed this book so much – the characters, the issues, and the development of these ‘Diamond’ girls who learned to take their power. The writing was beautiful, and I should look forward to reading more from this author. At the end of the book, the author offers many resources for abused women to seek help. I’ll definitely be reading more from this author.

©DGKaye2022

Author D.G. Kaye launches #podcast to help others through #grief journey – When Women Inspire

I was thrilled to be invited over to Christy Birmingham- Reyes’s blog recently. Christy runs an empowering blog for women – When Women Inspire. When she asked me to be her guest and talk about why I wanted to start a podcast on grief, I jumped at the chance and was honored to be invited.

D.G. Kaye is well-known as a nonfiction writer and memoir author, with several books to her name, including Meno-What? and Words We Carry. Now, she is taking on a new project. D.G. Kaye launches the podcast Grief – The Real Talk. I reached out to this talented woman to talk about the podcast, which has aired two episodes already. Below is our interview. Read on to discover why she created it, what she hopes listeners will gain, and more.

Grief podcast

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Can you please tell us why you started a podcast on this particular topic?

Thanks for asking Christy. After losing the love of my life, my husband, last year, my grief has been overwhelming – many days, I didn’t even care to go on.

I not only lost my husband, my best friend and soulmate, but it was during COVID lockdowns, which added to my trauma with all the seclusion at a very bad time for a griever to be on her own. With no live grief groups open to join, other than online groups, which were not doing it for me, and after reading a plethora of books on grief and everything related to the afterlife, I couldn’t find a place where I felt I belonged.

I’d also read many clinical books as well as self-help and memoirs from people going through the same journey sharing their grief stories. It was the stories told from the heart which I found some solace in.

I realized that there wasn’t enough ‘real talk’ going on with people who live this journey, and I felt that being around same people left me feeling with a sort of kinship – people who could understand and relate to what we grievers actually go through –  a look behind the lens so to speak.

So as a memoir writer myself, I felt there was a vacant space for this topic, and so I wanted to open up a new space where I could speak raw and real and share my observations and incidents that I’ve endured and endure in my own new life of living as one from two, and that perhaps there are others who may feel they can feel this kinship and have a place to share their own thoughts and feelings.

I am so sorry for your loss. What is your hope that listeners will gain from this podcast?

I hope my listeners will feel a sense of comfort as I did from reading and hearing stories from others by my sharing my own observations and experiences in my grief journey and what feels like everything becoming new to us when we lose a loved one that we were closely connected to. Everything changes.

Our identities change, our life plans, our habits, even the people that were once in our lives seem to change. I feel there’s a need for a place for us grievers to commune.

Who is Grief – The Real Talk the right podcast for?

My podcast is for people who travel the journey of grief, seeking some solace to be around like-minded people who know the journey, as well as for anyone who knows a griever and would like some insights as to what we go through on a daily basis when we lose someone close to us. I’m speaking as one of those grievers, not someone with a PHD giving clinical explanations about all the lonely things we can expect to go through, from the voice of one who is going through it and knows the pain.

It’s for anyone who has loved and lost someone and desires a place of listening to someone who knows the struggle. It’s a place where I talk about things that bring us down, things we find hard to accept, and those times when we feel we can’t go on, but also, I talk about why we must go on and share some of the things that I’m doing to try to help move forward – especially when we sometimes have no desire to. . . please hop over to Christy’s blog to say hi and continue reading.

Original Source: https://whenwomeninspire.com/2022/10/18/d-g-kaye-podcast-grief-real-talk/?fbclid=IwAR0Gw1E1ETgWvssGSv6F3J6vRpgORlqlx6hC-Tp4o9f_C6_yiOPezRifkaI

©DGKaye2022

God Bless our Queen Elizabeth II

I felt compelled to pay a tribute to Queen Elizabeth II, the longest reigning monarch in British history. This woman has served as a Constitutional monarch, head of state for 70 years. She was coronated reigning Queen at the age of 25 years old in 1953 after her father George VI died in 1952, as the eldest heir to the throne. She was the longest reigning monarch of 70 years, and the only one who has reigned during my lifetime. Only Queen Victoria came closest serving almost 64 years on the throne. To this day, Canada still celebrates Queen Victoria’s birthday on May 24th – affectionately known as ‘May 2-4’, first long weekend of summer.

Elizabeth lived and reigned through decades of change, far from the times of her ancestors who’d previously reigned. As a teenager during WWII, she became the first royal to join the active war efforts in the women’s British army as a truck mechanic. As Queen, her family had gone through numerous scandals, starting with the one that gave her own father the title of King with the abdication of her uncle Edward VIII’s reign, stepping down to marry a divorced American woman, Wallis Simpson. Power was passed over to his brother George, and following through, the Queen lived through plenty more scandals from her own family – sister Princess Margaret and her sordid affairs, down to her own sons, Charles marrying and divorcing Lady Diana and his ongoing affair with Camilla, and Andrew, recently having some of his royal duties and perks taken from him for his current shenanigans in the Jeffrey Epstein pornography scandal, even grandson Harry and the racist issues that came about with his marrying bi-racial Megan. Queen Elizabeth modernized the monarchy like no other royal.

The Canadian Connection to the Monarchy:

Although my country, Canada, is an independent country, the Queen remained our nation’s head of state, despite no active role in our Canadian politics, and despite our Canadian government legislative and parliament, run in similar fashion to the United Kingdom’s. She was our Consitituional monarch, who remained politically neutral. Our parliamentary system began from the British, Westminster system. Canada was originally a colony of the United Kingdom, thus, our Constitution was created by the United Kingdom in 1867, beginning our federal system of government, and is still one of the oldest parliamentary democracies in the world. Our Governor General is appointed by the monarch on the recommendation to the UK’s Prime Minister. Our Prime Minister and each provincial Premiere (equivalent to the American governor of American states), hold office only as long as our House of Commons (legislative branch), support them. Our government acts in the name of the Crown but our authority is derived by the Canadian people. The face of Queen Elizabeth has been on our Canadian currency since she was eight years old. She was also the Queen of Canada.

Not surprisingly, in this last year of the Queen’s life, she lost her husband who stood by and supported her for almost all of her 70 years reign. Despite her getting Covid and adding to her body’s immune response, and her age, 96 years old, as one myself who lost her own husband last year, only two days before the Queen lost her own beloved, and knowing how my loss took such a toll on my own health, it isn’t surprising to feel that the glorious monarch has taken too much on in the last year of her life between grief and illness to add to her 96 years on earth.

As a Canadian who grew up in her school years singing, God Save the Queen, I have always felt she was my Queen too. Perhaps as I grew up and my curiosities grew, became my fascination with the monarchy and its lineage of British history.

My heart is heavy for such a grand loss. As a personal note, I’d like to add my opinion about the fact that Prince Charles will now become King. Personally, I truly wish he would have abstained as the Queen’s uncle Edward did when her own father inherited the kingdom. I would have wished the kingdom would go directly to William, and can’t help but wonder how many others think the same way. But traditions remain, and now Charles will be the oldest monarch ever to take the throne. My heart goes out to the royal family.

God bless the Queen. My heart is heavy with this great loss of a reigning monarch, for myself, my country, and for the United Kingdom, and all the royals left behind. May she rest in peace with her beloved husband, and be remembered for centuries to come for her glorious reign. Amen.

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Note: There was a heavy rainfall in London before the Queen passed, and shortly before her death was announced, a double rainbow was formed over Buckingham Palace:

https://people.com/royals/rainbow-appeared-over-buckingham-palace-shortly-before-queen-elizabeths-death-was-announced/

©DGKaye2022

Sunday Book Review – Linda’s Midlife Crisis by Toni Pike

Welcome to my Sunday Book Review. Today I’m reviewing Toni Pike’s latest release – Linda’s Midlife Crisis. I enjoy Toni’s books and this one didn’t disappoint. This womens fiction/chicklit-ish story is about a neglected housewife with an unfulfilling job who learns to take back her power. Yay for Linda!

Blurb:

How does a fifty-year-old woman start a new life?

Meet Linda Lockwood: fifty, fat, frumpy and bullied by her horrible husband Ron and the vile students and principal at the school where she teaches English. But her life is about to undergo a total transformation.

Linda suffers a breakdown after a traumatic classroom incident, and that brings out the worst in Ron and devious principal, Wayne Forsythe. Then she is rocked to discover her husband has a shocking secret.

With her own determination and the help of friends and family, she starts to turn her life around. She begins to succeed, but there are still some more surprises in store Linda.

A feel-good and inspirational romance for older women who love second chances and chick lit.


***** “Once I started reading, I couldn’t stop!” – Goodreadsreviewer, USA

***** “Highly recommended for a beach read, or as a feel-good book.” – Reader’s Favorite reviewer, UK

My 5 Star Review:

Linda had finally had enough of her husband Ron’s neglect, insults and emotional abuse. She was 50 years old, about 25 pounds overweight, and had lost her sense of self-esteem. She was also childless because nasty Ron never wanted any kids.

Linda was an English school teacher, and even her students were mischievous brats who liked to play mean pranks on her. The last prank had kept her at home for a month in a depression-like state. Her husband couldn’t give a damn and continued to belittle her, demanding she cook for him in her near catatonic state. But Linda finally learned to pay him back with silence and neglect of her household duties, a type of revenge that finally had him asking for a divorce and leaving – to her delight.

Linda was clever and held the reins on her demands since Ron was the one leaving, also threatening him with getting a shark lawyer if he didn’t comply, worked well. She then went to her cunning school principal, Wayne Forsythe, to inform she was retiring, demanding a package, she eventually got, thanks to her persuasion of assuring him if he didn’t comply she would use the information she had on him about his devious doings. Linda was getting out of her slump and taking her power back.

After selling her house in Sydney, Australia, she moved up to Canberra where her sister lived, bought a beautiful condo, got a part-time job in a clothing store to keep her busy, made some new friends at work, went for long walks, changed her diet, lost her unhappiness weight, and began enjoying her life. But before she left for Canberra, when packing up her house, she packed up Ron’s stuff and left it on the front lawn for him, warning him to pick it up by day’s end. She got a shocking and infuriating surprise when Ron came to pick up his things – sorry, no spoilers.

Linda learns to love her new life in Canberra and takes up her passion for writing, begins to submit articles about her journey back to healthy lifestyle, and was hired to produce weekly articles.

Life was good, and one day she discovers Ron looking for her, begging for her back. Ahhh yes, sweet revenge! Linda learns to step back into the dating pool with her work friends and is pleasantly surprised to meet someone while out with the girls. Dr. Tran was enamoured by Linda and her new life was nearing perfect – if only Ron would stop showing up!

This was a fun and very engaging read. I could have read it in two days because I didn’t want to put it down, but life calls.

©DGKaye2022

Colleen Chesebro’s #TankaTuesday Weekly Poetry Challenge No. 272: #Tastetherainbow-Color Poetry ~Senryu

It’s been awhile since I hopped on to one of Colleen Chesebro’s Poetry Challenges, and as one known for not tolerating injustice, I felt compelled to join in this week’s poetry challenge with a Senryu. This week’s challenge we are free to choose any form of syllabic poetry we like, but must include a color.

Black hearts, empty souls
Stealing freedoms, women's rights
Darkness reigns Supreme

If you’d like to join Colleen’s weekly challenge, please visit the original post.

©DGKaye2022

Sunday Book Review – Laugh Out Loud – 40 Women Humorists Celebrate Then and Now #Anthology

A hilarious romp back to the past where 40 humorists from the Erma Bombeck Author’s Writer Workshop, contribute humorous stories about life comparing – then and now. Many of these stories touch on womanhood, aging, acceptance and grace all taken with a grain of salt and bringing words of wisdom to light – all in good humor.

Blurb:

Remember ironing your hair? Rolling it in soda cans to straighten it? Lacquering it with enough spray that it could ward off bullets? Ever slather on cement-colored lipstick so heavy, you looked like a zombie princess? Remember hot pants and platform heels? The danger of patent-leather shoes? Were you a secretary, nurse, or teacher, but only, as our mothers urged us, until you found “Mr. Right.” In her new book, LAUGH OUT LOUD: 40 WOMEN HUMORISTS CELEBRATE THEN AND NOW…BEFORE WE FORGET, Allia Zobel Nolan and 40 funny ladies from the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop chronicle these blips in time as they look back at life in the past lane. Zobel Nolan and the other dancing queens then fast forward to today and write about what it’s like to blink and wake up to be 50, 60, 70, and beyond—experiences ranging from cremation ceremonies to marrying younger men, from senior online dating to finding yourself a menopausal maniac in Mexico.

My 5 Star Review:

This book is a great romp of nostalgic humor. We all remember stories, incidents, trials, tribulations, and the aftermath where we can look back on the years and laugh at. We wore crazy styles, did stupid things, had wild crushes, crazy habits.

Funny women here sharing their humorous stories of the past, taking us on a nostalgic trip back through our own memory lane and having us shaking our heads in ‘I can’t believe I did or wore that’ or in affirming, yes, I totally remember that. In this anthology of fun you’ll read some funny side up stories about life from bell bottoms to Birkenstocks, from hot pants to hormones, from mood rings to menopause, it’s all here in 40 fun stories that will provide a few hours of many Lols, while keeping tabs on life from youth to aging and everything in between.

A few favs:

When We Were Fashionistas and the hilarious fashion rundown of the 1960s, Saturday Night Ain’t What it Used to Be – those long Saturday nights when other people had a date, but we didn’t, Menopausal Maniacs in Mexico – had me in stitches and nodding my head at the familiarity and the hilarity of aging gracefully – not, Breathless Encounter – takes us on one woman’s struggle to learn about wearing shapewear and the struggle of getting out of it, Losing It – will resonate with everyone who has struggled with diets, Taking my Face out of the Drawer – talks about when the author began wearing makeup and unapologetic for still feeling comfortable in seeing her face in makeup as the face she is still familiar with, and my ultimate favorite story by Sherri Kuhn – Loving the Skin I’m In – a story about aging and acceptance of beauty changes, fashion fails, settling for comfort unapologetically – “I didn’t get this way overnight, you know. Turning into a midlife goddess, completely relaxed in my body takes time and dedication.”

The book ends with a tribute to Erma Bombeck: Laughing Through the Pain by the author Allia Zobel Nolan who collaborated this most entertaining and clever anthology of humorous takes on women and aging who iconizes Bombeck for her wisdom’s on life, often of the mundane sort that become humorous to us women who can relate, despite Bombeck’s own tribulations in her own life. As Nolan writes, “She held up a mirror to her life, burst out laughing, then sat down and chronicled it for millions to enjoy.”

“When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I don’t have a single bit of talent left and could say, “I used everything you gave.” ~Erma Bombeck

©DGKaye2022

Sunday Book Review – Sometimes Marriage is a Real Crime by Ellie Marrandette

Welcome to my Sunday Book Review. Today I’m reviewing Ellie Marrandette’s, Sometimes Marriage is a Real Crime. This is a clever title that doesn’t come into play until later in the book, as Kate’s story begins in her childhood, illustrating the dysfunction in her life that led to her bad habits and choices growing up, her low self-esteem, and her ultimate naivety in her own marriage.

Blurb:

Sometimes Marriage is a Real Crime is a memorable novel conveying how our beliefs, traditions and tragedies occurring while we are young, transform us into the people we ultimately become..

We are introduced to smart, spunky, tomboyish Katie LeVay as a seven-year old “Daddy’s girl” thriving in a typical 1950s family environment. But life becomes complicated after her father abandons the family. Divorce is rare in the early ’60s, but small town gossip is not. Comfort foods might be Kate’s antidote . . . but dietary training could be her downfall.

Beginning in nostalgic 1957, we pursue seven-year old Kate’s coming of age saga through her complicated childhood, complex marriage and aspiring public relations career. Life would finally be perfect if only her womanizing husband would change his deceiving ways. He doesn’t and Kate has just discovered the perfect untraceable crime. Determined to extract her justice, she embarks on a dangerous real life game of chess. She’s learned which moves to play. Will she prevail is the question . . .

My 5 Star Review:

I was drawn to this book because of the content of the story being about a girl Kate, who struggled in her childhood because of her home environment, and subsequently, leading to her bad eating habits due to her need for comfort food. Although, the first while of this book gives us more insight into Kate’s mother Vicki, reasons why she married and how she became a workaholic mom and wasn’t home much to raise her kids, leaving Kate and her brother Gary home much of the time alone. Kate shares her thoughts and feelings about her father, her dreams of becoming a restauranter with her best friend Julie, her dreams of meeting her ‘prince’ one day, and her low self-esteem, which caused her many weight issues along her growing up and adult life, until she learned that food was her comfort that blanketed all her inner turmoil.

Kate was also naive, no surprise as she hadn’t much guidance growing up, something I could relate to and which probably drew me into this book. Kate spent most of her life on diets, crazy ones mostly and always felt she had to be sexy for her handsome womanizing husband, yet felt that her great cooking skills were essential to keeping her marriage together because Rich loved her cooking. Bad idea.

As the decades pass, we grow with Kate who had a kind heart, and her share of heartbreak and often, I found her a little bit too forgiving. Despite her weak traits, she had ambition and goals and her career in the fashion business that took her and us to some wonderful vacations where the author did a wonderful job of inviting us along with great descriptions and details of places Kate visited.

The book centered around food, weight concerns, self esteem issues, woven through the story line leading up to an ultimate revenge once Kate finally gets the message that her husband is a cheating bastard, and until that part later in the book, I didn’t feel this was a crime mystery story at all, rather a triumph of growth for Kate who finally learned how to take her power back.

©DGKaye2022

Sunday Book Review Plus – Bonus Documentary Recap on Joan Didion – The Year of Magical Thinking

Welcome to my Sunday Book Review with an added bonus. Today I’m going to review Joan Didion’s book – The Year of Magical Thinking. But before I share my book review, I’m going to share an overview of the 2017 Documentary currently on Netflix – Joan Didion – The Center Will Not Hold, where 86 year old, literary icon, Joan, reflects on her intimate stories from her writing career and struggles, and her forty year marriage to author John Gregory Dunne, brother to author Dominick Dunne. The documentary was directed by her nephew, Griffin Dunne.

 

My 5 Star Review Documentary Review:

 

Joan Didion was born December 5, 1934 in Sacremento, California. She’s an American novelist and essayist and screenwriter. Joan is known for her incisive depictions of social unrest. Joan says she began writing at the age of five and was a shy ‘bookish’ girl. She never considered herself a real writer until her first published book. Joan struggled with social anxiety and took up acting and public speaking to help ease her anxieties. As a young teen, she spent much of her time typing out books by Ernest Hemingway so she could learn how sentence structure worked. Joan had a sordid childhood as her dad was in the army during WWII, with moving a lot she didn’t attend school regularly until returning back to Sacremento in 1944.

 

After watching the documentary and learning about the demises of both her husband and her daughter Quintana, my heart went out to Joan and I was compelled to read her book, The Year of Magical Thinking, because she wrote it after John’s death. It was first published in 2005. In the documentary, Joan’s publicist talks about how he urged Joan to write her novel published in 2012 – Blue Nights, for both, John and Quintana.

 

John and Joan met in New York City when Joan won a poetry contest at her senior year in Berkeley for her essay, Prix de Paris, and the prize landed her a job as research assistant at Vogue. John wrote for Time Magazine at the time.

 

They bounced ideas off one another, each wrote their own books and essays, but they collaborated on screenplays together – Needle Park (1971 with Al Pacino) and A Star is Born (1976 Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson. Joan’s logline for Needle Park – “Romeo and Juliette as junkies.

 

In this documentary, we get a deep inside look at this author from her beginnings as a journalist writing hard stories, Joan would say that she writes about disorder because she’d then find the situation”less scary”. She wasn’t happy with the way some of her books were portrayed for movies, such as, Book of Common Prayer, complaining her characters were totally different than what she’d written.

 

Joan admits that much of what she writes contained pieces of her. Her interests in writing were mostly about stories of humanity and the bad things going on in the world. Her visit to El Salvador prompted her to write political stories and essays, and an eventual book called El Salvador. She talks about the lie of the Central Park 7 – propaganda spurred falsely in the accusation of the rape of a jogger in Central Park, N.Y. and on VP Dick Cheney, “Bully of the Bush war,” “He took the lemons, made lemonade, spilled, and made someone else cleanup.”

 

John and Joan kept a low profile in the celeb world. They adopted their daughter Quintana at birth. When Quintana was asked what kind of mom Joan was, she replied, “Okay, mostly remote.” Joan began questioning how parents are sometimes on auto-pilot and don’t realize child neglect.

 

In 2003, Quintana took ill and was rushed to hospital when she went into septic shock resulting from pneumonia, which turned worse and ultimately left her in a coma at the time of John’s death. John and Joan had just come home from visiting Quintana in hospital on December 30, 2003, and they were sick with worry about their daughter. Joan made dinner, the two sat down to eat when John had a massive, fatal heart attack. Later, looking in her husband’s closet with a friend to pack up his clothes, Joan said, “What if he comes back?” That was clearly a grief statement because I could so identify with not wanting to let go. After she wrote The Year of Magical Thinking, Joan said it was the hardest book to write, but had to write it to get through. I totally get that. She told herself that after writing the book she would learn to let go. This woman lost the love of her life while their daughter lay in a coma.

 

Months after Quintana’s recovery, she fell and hit her head, suffering a massive hematoma and resulting in six hours of brain surgery. As Quintana was recovering her major illnesses in 2004, she came down with Pancreatitis in 2005, and ultimately died from it in August 2005 at age 39. Didion wrote Blue Nights in 2011 for Quintana. That woman was broken.

 

Joan was/is a tiny woman, and after losing her family, her wonderful friends stepped up to take care of her and made sure she ate at her already weight of 75 pounds. Joan then wrote the play for the book The Year of Magical Thinking, which starred Vanessa Redgrave, in the nonfictional soliloquy.

 

Joan wrote Blue Nights after the play, about Quintana – a book she said she didn’t want to write. On her life when asked if she had regrets about things, she said, “The failure to plan for misfortune,” her guilt of failing as a mother.

 

In 2005 Didion won the National Book Award for Nonfiction and became a finalist for National Book Critics Circle Award.  She won a Pulitzer Prize for her book, The Magical Year of Thinking. In 2015, President Obama awarded Joan with the Mastery of Style in Writing Award for exploring the culture around us and exposing the depths of sorrow and for her ‘startling honesty’.

 

 

Poignant Quotes:

 

“Everyone has moved on except the one left grieving.”

 

“See enough and write it down.”

 

“A journal – a forgotten account paid with interest.”

 

“Remember what it is to be me, that’s always the point.”

 

 

 

 

I recently finished reading Joan’s book, The Year of Magical Thinking. After seeing the documentary and having only read one other of Joan’s books, I felt compelled to read.

 

 

 

 

Blurb:

 

NATIONAL BOOK AWARD WINNER • NATIONAL BESTSELLER • From one of America’s iconic writers, a stunning book of electric honesty and passion that explores an intensely personal yet universal experience: a portrait of a marriage—and a life, in good times and bad—that will speak to anyone who has ever loved a husband or wife or child.

 

Several days before Christmas 2003, John Gregory Dunne and Joan Didion saw their only daughter, Quintana, fall ill with what seemed at first flu, then pneumonia, then complete septic shock. She was put into an induced coma and placed on life support. Days later—the night before New Year’s Eve—the Dunnes were just sitting down to dinner after visiting the hospital when John Gregory Dunne suffered a massive and fatal coronary. In a second, this close, symbiotic partnership of forty years was over. Four weeks later, their daughter pulled through. Two months after that, arriving at LAX, she collapsed and underwent six hours of brain surgery at UCLA Medical Center to relieve a massive hematoma.

 

This powerful book is Didion’ s attempt to make sense of the “weeks and then months that cut loose any fixed idea I ever had about death, about illness … about marriage and children and memory … about the shallowness of sanity, about life itself.”

 

 

My 5 Star Review:

 

An accounting of love and loss. In this often, heartwrenching book, Joan Didion champions her once simple writing life alone, without her husband, best friend and consultant on all her writing. Joan reminisces on her life and writing with her husband John, always with her – writing, walking, traveling, filming – they did everything together, despite them both being individual writers, with the exception of a few collaborations.

 

Joan takes us through her life in vignettes as she shares memories of incidence on vacations the family took together, the circles of people they traveled with, their routines, when they adopted Quintana, motherhood, and mistakes. But most poignantly, Joan focuses on the time of John’s death, the surreal moments, the most insignificant things becoming big things, the most minutest details overlooked while she was living numb are being realized in this story. She begins her story with the the eve her and John went to visit Quintana in hospital, while she was in an induced coma. They were both worried sick about their daughter. Joan makes dinner, they sit down to eat and John has a fatal heart attack right in front of her on December 30, 2003. Her details are precise. She talks about her different kinds of grief, comparing the variation in grief between losing her parents, to how different her grief felt when John died. Joan shares what it was like waking up the next morning alone. She’ll take you right into her realizations. So identifiable for anyone who has ever deeply loved and lost. I know much of what Joan speaks, like not even remembering if we ate or not, mostly not. It’s a numbness that takes over to break the impact of the shock.

 

Joan bares herself with raw honesty on what grief leaves on someone, the stages of steps involved until reaching acceptance, but I wonder how many ever get there. Joan shares how she came to decisions about giving her loved one’s clothes away, as Joan in her denial stage held hope he may come back. Joan discusses her concern of having to break the news to Quintana about her father’s death, after she awakes from a long coma. Joan shares her fears about her daughter getting sick again overshadowing her grief – “Until now, I had been able only to grieve, not mourn. Grief was passive. Grief happened, Mourning, the act of dealing with grief, required attention.”

 

Imagine trying to stay sane!

 

Joan Didion is an iconic writer. As a journalist, she followed stories of humanity, out in the field. She said it was easier to deal with war if she could see it. She’s a tiny frail woman who can barely move her hands now at age 86, but that doesn’t stop her from still using them to articulate what she speaks. She’s lived through hell and back TWICE, first losing the love of her life, then her daughter. I can only imagine the amount of courage it took to write about such pain. It’s not surprising this Warrior Woman has won so many awards. I was drawn to this book after watching a documentary about her, The Center Will Not Hold on Netflix after my own husband’s passing, and I would recommend this book to anyone, especially those who have loved and lost.

 

 

Poignant Quotes that resonate:

 

“Life changes fast.

 

Life changes in the instant.

 

You sit down to dinner and life as you know it ends.

 

The question of self-pity.”

 

“Grief turns out to be a place none of us know until we reach it.”

 

“I could not count the times during the average day when something would come up that I needed to tell him. This impulse did not end with his death.”

 

“Marriage is memory, marriage is time.”

 

“For forty years I saw myself through John’s eyes. I did not age. This year for the first time since I was twenty-nine I saw myself through the eyes of others.”

 

“I have trouble thinking of myself as a widow. I remember hesitating the first time I had to check that box on the ‘marital status’ part of a form.”

 

“I realized that for the time being I could not trust myself to present a coherent face to the world.”

 

“I know why we try to keep the dead alive: we try to keep them alive in order to keep them with us.”

 

“I realize as I write this that I do not want to finish this account.”

 

 

©DGKaye2021