Everywhere I went last week, I kept hearing the name Joan Didion. She was all over the newspapers, on every second blog I read and getting mentioned in numerous tweets. I was intrigued, I wanted to be find out about all the buzz, so I picked up a copy of “Blue Nights” and I was blown away. Never have I read a book that simply took my breath away by it’s heartbreaking subject matter.
Joan Didion sadly lost her daughter to a pneumonia in 2005. This novel brings us into the world of a parent who’s lost a child and the sadness that comes with that horrific reality. The novel starts reflecting on her daughter, Quintana Roo’s wedding day and the details that she’s clung to after all this time, the way her tattoo showed through her veil, the red on the bottom of her shoes when she bent down to perform her vows, these little details continue to play like a movie is Didion’s mind.
I started this novel on 11/11/11, a day of remembrance, but also a day when 10 years ago, I lost a friend to a horrific drowning accident. We were all 17 years of age in our final year of high school, with our University plans in full swing and the whole world laid out in front of us. On that very sad day, my friend Anthony, who was a constant breath of fresh air, lost his life and it left all of us heartbroken. At 17 years of age, I couldn’t comprehend the fact that he would no longer be around in the hallways, that his infectious laugh would no longer be heard, it was a very sad time for everyone. This novel drew me right back into that mindset, hearing the thoughts of a parent who has lost a child and all the ramifications that come along with that unnatural sense of order. Joan’s eloquent words painted a visual picture of the hurt and pain that families are left with after a loved one dies, especially when you are the parent of the child.
There are passages in this 188 page novel that took my breath away because they are written with such a fragile voice.
My cognitive confidence seems to have vanished altogether. Even the correct stance for telling you this, the ways to describe what is happening to me, the attitude, the tone, the very words, now elude my grasp.
The tone needs to be direct.
I need to talk to you directly, I need to address the subject as it were, but something stops me.
Is this another kind of neuropathy, a new frailty, am I no longer able to talk directly?
Was I ever?
Did I lose it?
Or is the subject in this case a matter I wish not to address?
When I tell you that I am afraid to get up from a folding chair in a rehearsal room on West Forty-second Street, of what am I really afraid?
The novel had a very therapeutic element to it and as a reader you will experience her fears and concerns. Building this kind of connection with a reader is not easily done and it’s easy to see why this personal and beautifully written novel has everyone talking.
Be sure to check out these two fabulous glimpses into “Blue Nights”: