Picturing the Wreck

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Thirty years after a torrid affair with a patient destroyed the family and reputation of psychoanalyst Solomon Grossman, the chancest of coincidences presents him with what he believes is an opportunity to make up for his past mistakes. Watching television coverage of a devastating airplane crash in Los Angeles, Solomon recognizes the National Transportation safety officer in charge as the son he hasn't seen since his wife left him after his affair. Solomon leaves his busy New York office and, in the hope of a ...
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Overview

Thirty years after a torrid affair with a patient destroyed the family and reputation of psychoanalyst Solomon Grossman, the chancest of coincidences presents him with what he believes is an opportunity to make up for his past mistakes. Watching television coverage of a devastating airplane crash in Los Angeles, Solomon recognizes the National Transportation safety officer in charge as the son he hasn't seen since his wife left him after his affair. Solomon leaves his busy New York office and, in the hope of a reconciliation, travels to the scene of the disaster. What follows is the haunting story of his fall from respectability, told through vivid flashbacks, and his desperate attempt to redeem himself and his life in the eyes of his son. Picturing the Wreck is also a controversial exploration of the nature of psychoanalysis: utterly trusted by his patients, Solomon Grossman is the most fallible of men. He is a Holocaust survivor whose personal beliefs and experiences contradict the underlying philosophy of the profession he is sworn to uphold; a professional in the business of caring who no longer cares what he does.

Estranged from his wife and child for 30 years following an affair with one of his patients, a Jewish psychoanalyst begins a journey toward redemption which leads him to Los Angeles in search of a reconciliation with his son.

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Editorial Reviews

Meg Cohen Ragas

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

Library Journal
The narrator of Shapiro's (Playing with Fire, LJ 6/1/90; Fugitive Blue, LJ 12/92) third novel is Holocaust fugitive, psychotherapist loner Solomon Grossman, who by chance sees his adult son Daniel interviewed on television. This brings him to relate his sad story to Daniel, in absentia. Thirty years before, Solomon was accused of molesting his patient Katrina Volk, the daughter of a Nazi. Though undercurrents of anger, guilt, expiation, and seduction surround the incident-which Solomon was unable to explain-his wife left him, taking Daniel with her. Now Solomon jets to Los Angeles, where father and son reconcile just before Solomon dies of a heart attack. In death he becomes a sort of guardian angel, trying to help Daniel overcome his own checkered past. Shapiro interweaves personal and political history: tiny gold threads of possibility peek through, but no seams show. In the end, she achieves the difficult feat of producing a book that is appealing, kind, and compassionate without being maudlin. Recommended for fiction collections.-Harold Augenbraum, Mercantile Lib., New York
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780452277694
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
  • Publication date: 2/1/1997
  • Pages: 256
  • Product dimensions: 5.26 (w) x 7.96 (h) x 0.67 (d)

Meet the Author

Dani Shapiro
Dani Shapiro
Dani Shapiro's honest, thought-provoking books -- from the bestselling memoir Slow Motion to stirring domestic dramas like Family History -- illuminate the meaning behind the seemingly everyday trials of "normal" lives. The Los Angeles Times touts her talents as an "abundantly emotional writer with a deep understanding of life’s banal blessings."

Biography

Dani Shapiro is the author of four acclaimed novels, Playing with Fire, Fugitive Blue, and Picturing the Wreck, and Family History, and the bestselling memoir Slow Motion. She teaches in the graduate writing program at The New School, and has written for The New Yorker, Granta, Elle, and Ploughshares, among other magazines. She lives with her husband and son in Litchfield County, Connecticut.

Author biography courtesy of Random House.

Good To Know

In out interview, Shapiro shared some interesting anecdotes about her life with us:

"One of the stranger things about me is that I was raised as an Orthodox Jew. I went to a yeshiva until I was thirteen years old, and spoke fluent Hebrew. I no longer can speak Hebrew, though I suppose it would come back if I immersed myself in it."

"I used to act in television commercials when I was a kid and a young adult."

"I've never had a ‘real job'. Well, that's not entirely true. I spent a week as an executive assistant at an advertising agency after I graduated from college -- it's the thing that propelled me back into graduate school, to get my M.F.A. And also, I sold cubic zirconia (fake diamonds) over the phone when I was in high school. Phone sales. Talk about rejection!"

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    1. Hometown:
      Bethlehem, Connecticut
    1. Date of Birth:
      April 10, 1962
    2. Place of Birth:
      New York, New York
    1. Education:
      B.A., Sarah Lawrence College, 1987, M.F.A., 1989

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