In her previous memoir, A Year of Magical Thinking, author Joan Didion writes about the death of her husband. More recently in Blue Nights she writes about the death of her daughter, Quintana Roo. The recent memoir differs from the previous in that the tone is lower, the story more tragic. When Didion mentions (only once) that her daughter was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder and that she drank too much, I appreciated the information but was glad the author left alone what she could not speak of and handed indirectly those things she had the courage to suggest. Quintana Roo might have lived an unusually difficult adult life – we don’t know. She might have died from something more self-inflicted than accidental – we also don’t know – and we probably shouldn’t. True stories can be mean to the people they describe. Didion in Blue Nights is not mean to Quintana Roo. If she is unkind to anyone, it is to herself for her failures as a mother and her frailty in the face of age, insights that describe processes many of us will experience, likely with some of the same vulnerabilities. Blue Nights is about a subject as sad as has ever been written – the death of a child – but it is not a difficult book to read. It’s a wonderfully controlled account of unspeakable grief.
Nov 5, 2012