The Year of Magical Thinking | Study Guide

Joan Didion

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The Year of Magical Thinking | Chapter Summaries

See Chapter Summaries Chart

Timeline of Events

  • January 30, 1964

    Didion and Dunne are married.

    Chapter 5
  • July 26, 2003

    Quintana and Gerry are married.

    Chapter 5
  • November 2003

    Didion and Dunne go to Paris.

    Chapter 6
  • December 5, 2003

    Didion celebrates her last birthday with Dunne.

    Chapter 13
  • December 25, 2003

    Quintana is hospitalized.

    Chapter 1
  • December 30, 2003

    Dunne suddenly dies.

    Chapter 1
  • January 15, 2004

    Didion breaks the news of Dunne's death to Quintana.

    Chapter 7
  • March 23, 2004

    Dunne's funeral is held.

    Chapter 4
  • Two days later

    Quintana and Gerry fly to Los Angeles; Quintana collapses.

    Chapter 7
  • April 30, 2004

    Quintana is transferred to New York for rehabilitation.

    Chapter 12
  • July to August 2004

    Didion attends the political conventions.

    Chapter 15
  • August 30, 2004

    Didion finally accepts Dunne's death.

    Chapter 15
  • December 24, 2004

    Didion hosts Christmas Eve without Dunne.

    Chapter 22
  • December 31, 2004

    Didion finishes writing the book.

    Chapter 22

Chapter Summaries Chart

Chapter Summary
Chapter 1 Joan Didion begins the book reflecting on how quickly life can change. The first lines are "Life changes fast. Life chan... Read More
Chapter 2 Didion describes Dunne's death in more detail. They had come home from seeing their daughter Quintana at the hospital. D... Read More
Chapter 3 Didion explores "the power of grief to derange the mind." She quotes studies comparing mourning to a state of mental ill... Read More
Chapter 4 Didion says she "seemed rational," though she was not. She describes Dunne's funeral, held a few months later when Quint... Read More
Chapter 5 Didion goes into more detail about her daughter Quintana's illness. Quintana had married in July 2003. Near Christmas 20... Read More
Chapter 6 Didion describes two times in her life when she had "an apprehension of death." Both visions were "transcendent, more be... Read More
Chapter 7 Didion creates a chronology. Quintana was admitted to the hospital on Christmas Day (December 25). Dunne died five days ... Read More
Chapter 8 Didion relates how Quintana and Gerry arrived in Los Angeles. They got off the plane and picked up their luggage. Gerry,... Read More
Chapter 9 Didion traveled to Los Angeles to be with Quintana. She recalls whispering to Quintana in her hospital bed: "You're safe... Read More
Chapter 10 Didion writes about "the vortex effect," the phrase she uses to describe how some thoughts of Dunne or Quintana could dr... Read More
Chapter 11 When Quintana woke up, she said her memories were "mudgy," meaning she could not clearly remember certain details. Didio... Read More
Chapter 12 As Quintana healed, Didion understood her daughter would soon need to be independent again. Didion recognizes she had no... Read More
Chapter 13 Didion didn't start dreaming again until the summer, months after Dunne's death. She recounts several dreams, all about ... Read More
Chapter 14 Didion began feeling fragile, as if she was trying to hold herself together. She became aware of every possible danger, ... Read More
Chapter 15 Didion is a journalist, and she had accepted an opportunity to cover the 2004 Republican and Democratic National Convent... Read More
Chapter 16 Didion repeatedly notes how Dunne had complained they weren't having any fun. She connects this comment to a couple, Joe... Read More
Chapter 17 Although everyone anticipates the possibility of losing a loved one, Didion says no one is actually prepared for the rea... Read More
Chapter 18 Didion says she didn't fully understand what killed Dunne for almost a year after his death. She had requested the autop... Read More
Chapter 19 Didion says she has a hard time thinking of herself as a widow, but she also had a hard time thinking of herself as a wi... Read More
Chapter 20 Didion is writing this chapter almost a year after Dunne's death. She assesses how she has changed. She recognizes she h... Read More
Chapter 21 Didion remembers being in a taxi with Dunne, coming home after visiting Quintana in the hospital. Gerry, Quintana's husb... Read More
Chapter 22 It is one year and one day after Dunne's death, December 31, 2004. Didion briefly mentions the tsunami that had just occ... Read More
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