Dani Shapiro's third novel, Picturing the Wreck, is a fresh and eye-opening narrative that's told -- oddly enough for the work of a young female novelist -- from the perspective of a lonely, embittered 64-year-old man. Shapiro has written a shrewd commentary on life's wicked ironies, and on how the sometimes unfortunate choices we make seal our futures. Solomon Grossman was a respected psychoanalyst in a respectable, if faltering, marriage when he began an affair with one of his patients. When his wife leaves him after learning of his infidelity, she takes the one thing that matters to him most: their one-year-old son, Daniel. "I grabbed at the blue blanket, but she was already in motion, pulling Daniel away from me," Solomon recalls. "And I was left holding the warm, soft remnant of a life." Now, 30 years later, Solomon is still alone, living with the consequences of his actions. When he recognizes Daniel on television -- he's a government safety officer investigating a plane crash in Los Angeles -- he senses a chance for reconciliation, an opportunity to recreate himself in his son's eyes.
In Picturing the Wreck, Shapiro has crafted an intimate tale about an almost biblical fall from grace that probes the depths of a broken man's psyche. Her provocative prose and bold psychological interpretations give us a glimpse of Grossman's soul: "I have spent my life trying, in the words of the great Sigmund, to reduce my patients' neurotic misery to common unhappiness," he says. "But when I look at my son, I know that I am the source of so much of his own neurotic misery -- and nothing I can do will change that history." In addition to expertly capturing the unbridled maleness of her protagonist, Shapiro also allows us to empathize with him -- and to hope for his redemption. -- Salon