PositiveThe Boston GlobeThe handsome narrator, possessed of a sensibility more romantic than practical, has two weeks to come up with the cash to keep his family afloat – at least for the next few months. The novel is ponderous, if always intelligently written, as it becomes more an impressionistic journey of the mind than a sprint to the finish line … Caught between two worlds and fitting into neither, the narrator remains something of an enigma, less an invisible man than a failed ‘social experiment,’ as he often bitterly refers to himself ... The novel has a naturalistic bent as Thomas attributes his alter ego's problems to birthright and race, and he is convincing on this point.
PositiveThe Boston GlobeJoan Didion has long grappled with what is out of our control and what is within our control, life's uneasy balance, or imbalance, between circumstance and free will. The Year of Magical Thinking forces her to confront this issue in an especially personal way: It deals with the death of Didion's husband, the writer John Gregory Dunne, which occurs in the midst of their daughter's hospitalization for a winter flu that had turned life-threatening ...her writing, with its tautness and precision, is itself a way of imposing order on the illogical, preserving sanity in the face of turmoil. Remaining a cool customer has been Didion's life's work. She doesn't do the feeling for you, but her unfussy prose elicits a rush of emotion in the reader... The book is an exacting self-examination, but it is also a heartbreaking, though far from sentimentalized, love letter, engrossing in its candor ... In the matter-of-fact, almost comma-less prose that is her hallmark, Didion illuminates the bond between husband and wife in terms both homely and indelible.