<b>Sukey's favorite</b> Life changes in an instant. You sit down to dinner and life as you know it ends. Joan Didion, a remarkable writer and observer of our world, gave her very private grief a very public face when she wrote <b>A Year of Magical Thinking</b>, this year's National Book Award winner in nonfiction. It's an anatomy of desperation, grief and mourning, delivered in her deceptively simple prose. Deceptive because its very simplicity makes her raw emotions real, viscerally palpable. These are not emotions or states of mind often dissected; she wasn't looking for that constantly called-for closure, she was charting her attempt to reverse time, to comprehend what had happened so suddenly, to deal with the yawning ache left in her soul. The life that ended was her 40-year, vibrantly close marriage to fellow writer John Gregory Dunne. In recounting the year that followed his death, Didion offers a portrait of their marriage, of their intertwined writerly lives, of their concern for their only daughter, then gravely ill. Barbara Caruso reads, and hearing Didion's words makes this very personal book even more intimate moving, memorable, instructional in an odd way, a needed dose of reality where we usually get only platitudes.