In her memoir â€śBlue Nights,â€ť released this week in paperback, Joan Didion muses on the complexities of raising an adopted child, aging, and mortality. She explores the period leading up to and following the death of her 39-year-old daughter, Quintana Roo Dunne, and flashes back to high and low moments along the familyâ€™s trajectory.
As she did in â€śThe Year of Magical Thinking,â€ť written while still reeling from the death of her husband John Gregory Dunne, she endures and attempts to resolve unbearable loss by observing, analyzing, and documenting it. In that respect, not much has changed since her 1976 expression of this oft-quoted sentiment: "I write entirely to find out what I'm thinking, what I'm looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear."
At her desk in New York City, Didion writes â€śBlue Nightsâ€ť facing a framed photograph taken by Quintana on a vacation to Barbados. In looking at the memory of â€śthe rocks outside the rented house, the shallow sea, the wash of surf,â€ť she shrinks the distance between them by gazing through her daughterâ€™s lens. Much of the bookâ€™s feeling, tinged with yearning and pathos, is triggered by a motherâ€™s reactions to photos of her daughter as a little girl. In some, â€śshe is wearing a checked gingham dress trimmed in eyelet, a little faded and a little too big for her, the look of a hand-me-down,â€ť her hair â€śbleached by the beach sun.â€ť By reading this book before your own beach excursion this summer, you likely wonâ€™t take a moment of it -- or any moment spent with loved ones -- for granted.