Shock and loss

Sacramento native Joan Didion takes another turn on the wheel of grief and memory in Blue Nights. It is a memoir of her daughter, Quintana Roo, adopted at birth and raised in a bookish, cultured home, and who died—far too young—shortly after Didion’s husband, the writer John Dunne. Like The Year of Magical Thinking, Didion’s memoir of her husband’s death and the grief that followed, Blue Nights is both about and not about her daughter. In digressions that are thoughtful and smart, it is also a book about parenting—and the way we no longer “raise” children in the hope that they’ll be independent and leave us, but instead hope for the opposite—and about adoption (it is, she notes, “always muddled”). It is also about the shock of discovering oneself alone and old, and even as Didion worries about her abilities, she proves that her mastery of language and story are still amazing.