“To err is human; to forgive divine.” But what if the person who hurt you most refuses to apologize or express any regret?
That’s the question haunting Manhattan journalist Susan Shapiro when her trusted advisor of fifteen years repeatedly lies to her. Stunned by the betrayal, she can barely eat or sleep. She’s always seen herself as big-hearted and benevolent, someone who will forgive anyone anything - as long as they’re remorseful. Yet the addiction specialist who helped her quit smoking, drinking and drugs after decades of self-destruction won’t explain – or stop - his ongoing deceit, leaving her blindsided. Her crisis management strategy is becoming her crisis.
To protect her sanity and sobriety, Shapiro ends their relationship and vows they’ll never speak again. Yet ghosting him doesn’t end her distress. She has screaming arguments with him in her mind, relives their fallout in panicked nightmares and even lights a candle, chanting a secret Yiddish curse to exact revenge.
In her entrancing, heartfelt new memoir The Forgiveness Tour: How to Find the Perfect Apology, Shapiro wrestles with how to exonerate someone who can’t cough up a measly “my bad” or mumble “mea culpa.” Seeking wisdom, she explores the billion-dollar Forgiveness Industry touting the personal benefits of absolution, where the only choice on every channel is: radical forgiveness. She fears it’s all bullshit.
Desperate for enlightenment, she surveys her old rabbis, as well as religious leaders from every denomination. Unable to reconcile all the confusing abstractions, she embarks on a cross country journey where she interviews people who suffered unforgivable wrongs that were never atoned: victims of genocides, sexual assault, infidelity, cruelty and racism. A Holocaust survivor in D.C. admits he’s thrived from spite. A Michigan man meets with the drunk driver who killed his wife and children. A daughter in Seattle grapples with her mother - who stayed married to the father who raped her. Knowing their estrangement isn’t her fault, a Florida mom spends eight years apologizing to her son anyway -with surprising results. Does love mean forever having to say you’re sorry?
Critics praised Shapiro’s previous memoir Lighting Up: How I Stopped Smoking, Drinking and Everything Else I Loved in Life Except Sex as fiercely honest, fascinating, funny and “a mind-bendingly good read.” Now the bestselling author and popular writing professor returns with a darker, wiser follow up, addressing the universal enigma of blind forgiving.
Shapiro’s brilliant new gurus sooth her broken psyche and answer her burning mystery: How can you forgive someone without an apology? Does she? Should you?
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About the Author
Table of Contents
Note to the Reader ix
Chapter 1 A Betrayal Exposed 1
Chapter 2 When an Apology Is Called For 7
Chapter 3 The Forgiveness Industry 17
Chapter 4 When Your Own Country Exiles You 25
Chapter 5 When All Authority Figures Fail You 38
Chapter 6 When the Love of Your Life Betrays You 49
Chapter 7 When Your Whole Continent Betrays You 62
Chapter 8 Craving an Impossible Apology 74
Chapter 9 Depending on Someone Who Won't Apologize 89
Chapter 10 When Addiction Ruins Your Family 102
Chapter 11 Forgiving the Unforgivable 114
Chapter 12 When Love Means Always Having to Say You're Sorry 129
Chapter 13 Craving an Apology for Someone Else 141
Chapter 14 Shown No Remorse, Can You Heal Yourself? 155
Chapter 15 Forgiving a Critical Relative You Can't Leave 167
Chapter 16 When Tragedy Offers a Second Chance 180
Chapter 17 Giving the Apology You Want to Get 189
Chapter 18 What You Can't See Can Blind You 195
Chapter 19 Why You Should Lead the Least Secretive Life 207
Chapter 20 Seeing the Other Side 215
Chapter 21 Full-circle Forgiveness 223
Postscript: Healing Heart Problems 226
Appendix: Ways to Find the Perfect Apology 230
Books I Read While Writing the Forgiveness Tour 233
About The Author 238
Author's Note: Some names, dates, timelines, settings, and personal characteristics have been changed for literary cohesion and to protect privacy. In several cases, I went back to further interview subjects and added source material to elucidate the story.
Short excerpts of this work have appeared, in slightly different form, in The New York Times, Longreads, Salon, The Independent, Tablet, and The Revealer.
Dedication: To my father, Jack Shapiro