Blue Nights – Memoir Review

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From the Cover of Blue Nights by Joan Didion:

“From one of our most powerful writers, a work of stunning frankness about losing a daughter. Richly textured with bits of her own childhood and married life with her husband, John Gregory Dunne, and her daughter, Quintana Roo, this new book by Joan Didion examines her thoughts, fears, and doubts regarding having children, illness, and growing old.

Blue Nights opens on July 26, 2010, as Didion thinks back to Quintana’s wedding in New York seven years before. “Today would be her wedding anniversary.” This fact triggers vivid snapshots of Quintana’s childhood—in Malibu, in Brentwood, at school in Holmby Hills. Reflecting on her daughter but also on her role as her parent, Didion asks the candid questions any parent might about how she feels she failed either because cues were not taken or perhaps displaced. “How could I have missed what was clearly there to be seen?” Finally, perhaps we all remain unknown to each other. Seamlessly woven in are incidents Didion sees as underscoring her own age, something she finds hard to acknowledge, much less accept.

Blue Nights—the long light evening hours that signal the summer solstice, “the opposite of the dying of the brightness, but also its warning”—like The Year of Magical Thinking before it, is an iconic book of incisive and electric honesty, haunting and profoundly moving.”

Grade:

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Transfiguring Adoption awarded this book 2 Hoots out of 5 based on how useful it will be for a foster/adoptive family. [Learn more about our Hoot grading system here]

What I Thought:

Blue Nights—as an introspective memoir that seems to follow the author’s thought process almost as a journal—is an interesting and heartrending read, though a little difficult to follow at times as the language is quite poetic, and there is no chronology to it.  If you like authors to come right out and make points, this is not the book for you. As a matter of fact, you don’t find out until Chapter 10 that Mrs. Didion and her husband adopted Quintana as an infant. The details of the people and situations in Mrs. Didion’s life are only pieced together by reading the whole book, and some are still yet vague enough to not be completely understood.

In and of itself, Blue Nights is a great work of literature with artistic prose and insight about life, death, parenting, and aging. This book includes some thoughts about adoption-related issues, including birth family relationships and preconceived notions of what adoptive parenting would be like versus the reality. In terms of usefulness for a foster or adoptive family, I gave this book a 2 out of 5 because there are no real answers or encouragement found within the pages.

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