In the second chapter, Joan remembers flying with a particular airline that drew smiley faces on their aircrafts. Her daughter was always fascinated by those planes. Whenever the family would fly, her daughter would describe the event as "going on the smile." The image of her infant daughter and the smiling planes is triggered by an unhappy memory of her husband. The image invoked after it, however, shows that no matter the situation, one can find joy in life and can learn to appreciate the little things in life.
The Proper Way of Dealing with Death
After John dies, Joan begins reading various books about dealing with grief and about how someone close to a person who lost a loved one should react. What affects her the most is not the philological studies or the scientific studies she reads about grief but rather a book about etiquette that stresses the importance of love and support from those close to the person who lost someone. This shows that Joan, despite her efforts to appear highly rational, is just as emotional as any other person and thus she is portrayed here not as a famous author but rather as a vulnerable human being.
Lounging on a Beach
After Quintana wakes up and gets better, she and her husband plan to move to Malibu where they hope they can start their life again and be happy. When Joan hears this, she is happy for her daughter, imagining her lounging on the beaches of Malibu or just relaxing with her husband, living a carefree and happy life. This image of Quintana lying on the beach, happy and blissful, suggests just how much Joan loves her family. Even though she knows that she will be left alone, she still wishes for her daughter to be well and to have the happy life she deserves.
Another important image is mentioned by Joan in the seventh chapter. She discusses an event that took place in 1970 when Joan was with her husband in their car. While waiting at a red light, they saw a man slumped over the steering wheel, unmoving. The two realized that the man behind the wheel was dead, probably from a heart attack. The image remains with Joan because it made her realize just how quickly a person can perish and disappear.
The Year of Magical Thinking Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for The Year of Magical Thinking is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.