In an attempt to bring the greatest possible diversity to my feedback, I present you with two reviews in one. My fiancee and I often read and critique the same books so I give you a review in matching His and Hers format below:
Laura's Review (Hers):
I enjoyed this book, as much as a book about grief can be enjoyed. Ms. Didion skillfully articulated her feelings and thoughts after the sudden death of her husband and during her daughter's illness. Having recently lost a brother I was able to connect deeply with many of her thoughts, particularly the magical thinking she describes. It's not often that I read a book and think "oh my gosh, that's EXACTLY how I've felt" but this book did that for me. Ms. Didion helped me be able to articulate my own thoughts at times when I couldn't begin to articulate them myself.
I applaud Ms. Didion's willingness and ability to put herself out in public view in such a raw, vulnerable way. Death of a loved one is, I believe, a deeply personal experience and I can't imagine sharing my innermost vulnerabilities and thought processes with the public. Perhaps doing so was cathartic for Ms. Didion; I don't know. I do know, however, that it takes a great deal of courage to do so.
Some reviewers have criticized the book for its representation of the privileged life Ms. Didion lives. While I agree that there are numerous references to events and experiences that many people will never have, I don't fault her for that. She wrote this book from her own perspective, from her own viewpoint, and as such she presented her life honestly. I respect a person who is not apologetic for having had such opportunities.
I recommend this book. While it is not a happy read, it is evocative and beautifully written.
Rob's Review (His):
Seldom is a topic of such keen and personal import brought to the page with this much skill and candor. Didion lays bare her soul as she deals with the sudden death of her husband in a year that finds her experiencing all the phases of grief in textbook fashion. The Year should be required reading for anyone dealing with loss if for no other reason than to allow the reader the knowledge that grieving is a universal, expected and normal reaction to loss.
The only factor which leaves it dangling at less than a five-star rating for me is that it's not all that personally relatable. I appreciate endlessly her skill and honesty in this work but never having had the experience she describes it fails to resonate with me. I empathize greatly and appreciate her retelling of this period in her life but there are no points at which I can pin my story to her own. As such, it is an interesting museum piece, a fragment of someone else's life, but not something I can currently internalize.