In one sense, Dani Shapiro's slightly tardy midlife crisis began with her young son's prodding questions about God and other ominous subject. In another, it had been festering ever since childhood. Her personal search for core beliefs led her back into the wisdom of her Jewish roots and forward into meditation retreats and Eastern religions. For counsel, she sought counsel from a rabbi, a yogi, and a Buddhist monk. In hardcover, Devotion: A Memoir was compared, usually favorably with Elizabeth Gilbert's Eat, Pray, Love. A fine choice for spiritually minded women.
People (4 out of 4 stars)
“Brave, compelling, unexpectedly witty. . . . Stunningly intimate journey. . . . Thanks to Shapiro’s excruciatingly honest self-examination and crystal clear, lyrical writing, the journeyas secular swami Steve Jobs once famously saidis indeed the reward.”
“The one book that anyone over, say, 35 needs to read right now.”
“I was immensely moved by this elegant book, which reminded me all over again that all of us-at some point or another-must buck up our courage and face down the big spiritual questions of life, death, love, loss and surrender.”
“Dani Shapiro takes readers on an intense journey in search of meaning and peace. Her story of hope is eloquently told and unflinchingly honest.”
“Dani Shapiro’s novels and nonfiction are always rich in honesty and intelligence, about the psyche and lost hearts and families, about messes and shame and what calls us to transcend.”
“This is a beautiful, wry and moving story about one intelligent woman’s journey into her own life, to the corners where intelligence doesn’t always help.”
“I was on the verge of tears more than once in the course of Dani Shapiro’s impeccably structured spiritual odyssey. But Devotion’s biggest triumph is its voice: funny and unpretentious, concrete and earthy-appealing to skeptics and believers alike. This is a gripping, beautiful story.”
Shapiro is a thoughtful observer, and her writing is lovely. Some of her most vivid scenes are those in which she brings other people to life…
The Washington Post
Shapiro's newest memoir, a mid-life exploration of spirituality begins with her son's difficult questions-about God, mortality and the afterlife-and Shapiro's realization that her answers are lacking, long-avoided in favor of everyday concerns. Determined to find a more satisfying set of answers, author Shapiro (Slow Motion) seeks out the help of a yogi, a Buddhist and a rabbi, and comes away with, if not the answers to life and what comes after, an insightful and penetrating memoir that readers will instantly identify with. Shapiro's ambivalent relationship with her family, her Jewish heritage and her secularity are as universal as they are personal, and she exposes familiar but hard-to-discuss doubts to real effect: she's neither showboating nor seeking pat answers, but using honest self-reflection to provoke herself and her readers into taking stock of their own spiritual inventory. Absorbing, intimate, direct and profound, Shapiro's memoir is a satisfying journey that will touch fans and win her plenty of new ones.
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In the last few years, memoirs by women attempting to find answers to the big spiritual questions have become a genre all their own. The best of these books includes Eat, Pray, Love and much of Anne Lamott's nonfiction—and, make no mistake, Shapiro's Devotion ranks with the best. What makes such titles work is the authors' openness to a sampler approach to faith and a seeming lack of ego, which allows them to be simultaneously unflinchingly honest and self-deprecating. Shapiro, who has written both fiction and nonfiction, grew up in a Jewish household but drifted away from the faith after the death of her very devout father. During a crisis when her son almost died in infancy, Shapiro realized that she had internalized the idea of prayer but was unsure whether or not she was a believer. Age and time, paired with the questions of an inquisitive child and her own middle-of-the-night grapplings with anxiety, force the author to take a look at what spirituality means to her. VERDICT This work should appeal to readers who enjoy memoir, self-help, spirituality, and women's books. To reveal more would undermine the reader's pleasure of discovery. Highly recommended.—Pam Kingsbury, Univ. of Alabama, Florence
A deeply self-reflective, slow-moving memoir about the longing for spirituality. At midlife, novelist Shapiro (Black & White, 2007, etc.) was anxious, sleepless and worried about nameless things, asking herself constantly, "Who was I, and what did I want for the second half of my life?" Having grown up in a religious Jewish household in New Jersey, the daughter of a kosher-keeping father and a spiteful, unbelieving mother, Shapiro found herself, by her mid 40s, still making peace with her deceased parents. Recently, the author, her husband and their young son, Jacob, moved from Brooklyn to a bucolic spot in Connecticut, enjoying the simple life, doing yoga and going on retreats-yet not unaware of sudden, inexplicable calamity, like the illness suffered by Jacob as a six-month-old baby. Although his infantile seizure disorder was resolved with medication, Shapiro felt plagued by the specter of mortality, or as she learned through her Buddhist practices, what the Buddha gleaned under the Bodhi tree: "the fragility of life, the truth of change." Befriending such well-known yoga teachers as Sylvia Boorstein and Stephen Cope, whose teachings grace this memoir, the author worked through her alienation from God. She found a neighborhood synagogue and started Jacob at Hebrew school, attended occasional services, donned her father's traditional garb for the Jewish Theological Seminary's first egalitarian service and found joy in visiting her aged aunt. In short, Shapiro recognized that the sacred can be found in the familiar and everyday. There is much pretty writing here, taking cues from the limpid prose of Annie Dillard and Thoreau, as well as a winning candor and self-scrutiny. Measured,protracted prose leads this affecting journey. Author appearances in New York and Connecticut. Agent: Jennifer Rudolph Walsh/William Morris Agency
“Brave, compelling, unexpectedly witty. . . . Stunningly intimate journey. . . . Thanks to Shapiro’s excruciatingly honest self-examination and crystal clear, lyrical writing, the journey—as secular swami Steve Jobs once famously said—is indeed the reward.”
(4 out of 4 stars) - People Magazine
"Brave, compelling, unexpectedly witty. . . . Stunningly intimate journey. . . . Thanks to Shapiro’s excruciatingly honest self-examination and crystal clear, lyrical writing, the journeyas secular swami Steve Jobs once famously saidis indeed the reward."