In this award-winning memoir, Joan Didion, a premier observer of contemporary life, witnesses death. It walks into her New York apartment on December 30, 2003, approaches the dinner table and claims her husband of 40 years, John Gregory Dunne, who falls dead of a heart attack. Didion presents with dry clarity what happens in the year after that. Not reason, not acceptance, just observation, a reporter’s stance that looks like detachment, making the new widow seem a cool customer at the hospital where Dunne has been pronounced dead.
“Life changes fast,” Didion writes in the book’s opening sentence, but her life had already begun speeding toward change. A few days before her husband’s sudden death, their daughter, suffering pneumonia and septic shock, had been hospitalized. One family member is dead, another on life support.