Joan’s first reaction when she saw her husband sitting lifelessly on the chair was to think that he was pulling a joke on her. She could not imagine something tragic could be happening to them. As a result, she chose instead to think that her husband was just trying to fool with her. This is ironic considering the fact that her husband was probably already dead.
Not So Rational
Joan prides herself as being a rational human being, someone who can survive everything and rationalize everything. When it comes to her husband however, this proves not to be true. Instead of accepting her husband’s death, she tries to imagine ways he could be returning to her and ways the two could be together once more.
In the second chapter, Joan recalls a happy memory in which she and her family flew with a plane that had a smile painted on it. Joan’s daughter called the trip "going on the smile" because of the happy face painted on the plane. Ironically however, her father took the very same phrase and integrated it into a novel about a little girl killed by the same airplane company the family flew with when Quintana uttered the phrase.
While analyzing different books about grieving, Joan realized that in the past, the people who experienced the death of a loved one were less inclined to hide their feelings. The probability of them experiencing grief in the proper manner was higher because their family usually died inside their own homes. By taking this private moment and moving it into a public institution, namely a hospital, society made the experience of death a less personal event and rather a moment when those experiencing it were expected to remain stoic and to avoid manifesting any type of feelings. This is ironic for Joan who felt like she wanted to grieve like the people hundreds of years ago did but felt unable to because of the society she lived in.
Keeping Up the Faith
In the fifth chapter, Joan talks about her husband and how he never gave up on their daughter even though the doctors were reserved about her survival chances. After she woke up, Quintana remembers hearing her father whisper into her ear one day that he loves her and that he has faith in her. Ironically, John will be the one who will die and Quintana will recover almost miraculously after his death.
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.