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Joan Didion Survives 'The Year of Magical Thinking'

Just weeks after her daughter Quintana lapsed into a coma, Joan Didion's husband of nearly 40 years -- novelist John Gregory Dunne -- suffered a fatal heart attack at their dining room table. Didion's book about their lives together and her life now is called The Year of Magical Thinking. She tells Susan Stamberg how she adjusted to the loss of her husband in 2003 and her daughter two years later.

Didion, the author of five novels and seven books of non-fiction, is also a prolific essayist. She made an early mark with her 1968 collection of essays Slouching Toward Bethlehem. The book, in part, was a personal snapshot of her native California at a time of tremendous change.

The author and her Connecticut-born husband were really New Yorkers at heart. They lived on the Upper East Side of Manhattan.

John Gregory Dunne was also a respected author of books and essays. His novel True Confessions, a murder mystery set in Southern California, was eventually made into a 1981 movie. Dunne helped adapt the book for film and used his experience with Hollywood to write two non-fiction books about the movie business, The Studio and Monster.

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Nationally renowned broadcast journalist Susan Stamberg is a special correspondent for NPR.