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Book Review: Blue Nights by Joan Didion

Blue Nights by Joan Didion explores the death of the author’s adopted daughter, Quintana Roo, by discussing her experience with parenthood and growing old.

Didion recounts many moments in her life in her memoir, filling each chapter with bittersweet memories of her daughter. Didion also shares many personal moments in her life, ranging from her early childhood until this memoir’s publishing. In recalling both her daughter’s life and her own, Didion questions whether she made the right decisions in motherhood while simultaneously grieving the loss of her husband. 

What makes Didion’s novels different from other memoirs is the way she puts her memories into words. The way she recalls remnants of her life and shares her every thought is unique from other writers; her work is so personal, it’s as if we are both watching her grieve her loved ones while also feeling sympathy for her. The writing in Blue Nights constantly reminds us that healing does not happen overnight. Despite the emotional premise of this memoir, Didion’s writing style remains consistent with her other works: beautiful and detailed. She brings so much emotion to her writing and executes each scene poignantly without holding her feelings back. Her ability to be vulnerable yet precise in writing is beyond admirable, making each of her memoirs beautiful in its own distinctive way.

In all honesty, I was hesitant about reading this book after hearing how saddening the premise was. However, I later found myself in awe of this memoir because of how powerfully Didion describes grief. Blue Nights is a perfect representation of grieving because her feelings shine through each passage, but also because the novel itself is her healing process. Whether she is writing symbolically or being straightforward, her hard-hitting words left me empathizing with her for every page turned. Didion and her daughter shared a very loving relationship, and she even references Quintana Roo’s love for Malibu when talking about her daughter’s childhood and marriage. Didion’s admiration for her loved ones is apparent throughout her memoir, but she allows them to live on even after their passing. The battle that Didion faces with grief is more than inspiring, and her unique writing demonstrates that. 

Blue Nights by Joan Didion is available to check out from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available to download for free on Libby.