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About the Author

Dani Shapiro was born on April 10,1962 in New Jersey. She attended Sarah Lawrence College where she studied under Grace Paley. She began writing fo rthe screen and adapted Oscar Wilde's "The Happy Prince" for HBO. She has also been a professor of creative writing at Wesleyan University and an show more instructor at Columbia University. She has since written five novels and 3 memoirs. Her novels include: Playing with Fire, Fugitive Blue, Picturing the Wreck, Family History and Black and White. Her memoirs are Hourglass, Slow Motion, Devotion, and Inheritance. (Bowker Author Biography) show less

Includes the name: Dani Shapiro (Author)

Image credit: Author Dani Shapiro at the 2018 Texas Book Festival in Austin, Texas, United States. By Larry D. Moore - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=74066328

Works by Dani Shapiro

Family History (2003) 431 copies
Signal Fires (2022) 346 copies
Devotion: A Memoir (2010) 258 copies
Black & White (2007) — Author — 241 copies
Slow Motion: A True Story (1998) 212 copies
Picturing the Wreck (1995) 67 copies
Fugitive Blue (1992) 26 copies
Best New American Voices 2010 (2009) — Editor — 26 copies
Playing with Fire (1990) 24 copies
Leuchtfeuer 3 copies

Associated Works

A Velocity of Being: Letters to a Young Reader (2018) — Contributor — 231 copies
Granta 62: What Young Men Do (1998) — Contributor — 140 copies
The Best American Erotica 2001 (2001) — Contributor — 91 copies
Full Frontal Fiction: The Best of Nerve.com (2000) — Contributor — 71 copies
The Jewish Writer (1998) — Contributor — 52 copies
This Is the Place: Women Writing About Home (2017) — Contributor — 38 copies
The Good Parts: The Best Erotic Writing in Modern Fiction (2000) — Contributor — 34 copies


2019 (23) 2022 (12) adult (9) artificial insemination (16) audiobook (18) autobiography (15) biography (22) biography-memoir (17) Books Read 2021 (10) coming of age (11) DNA (26) ebook (19) family (71) family secrets (28) fiction (139) genealogy (60) Jewish (15) Judaism (22) Kindle (26) library (10) marriage (11) memoir (225) mental illness (12) mothers and daughters (15) New York City (9) non-fiction (150) novel (16) own (10) paternity (20) photography (13) read (18) read in 2019 (22) religion (12) secrets (10) signed (11) spirituality (9) to-read (332) unread (15) USA (13) writing (41)

Common Knowledge



I find it very difficult to rate someone’s memoir as it is very personal to them and you never know the reason why they felt compelled to write it. In this case, I feel the author needed to take her spiraling emotional thoughts and put them down to ground herself. The writing was very good and the author did a good job of narration. I found the story interesting but unfortunately, not being in that situation, I found it a bit repetitive. I am so glad that Dani was able to find peace with her family and past.… (more)
slittleson | 54 other reviews | Feb 2, 2024 |
Admit this novel disappointed me. It's not a bad book (Shapiro's a competent storyteller), but I feel like the blurbs and reviews significantly misrepresent and oversell the nature of the story. What you get is a lot less than what you are led to expect.

For instance, the summary on the back cover of the book promises a tale of two families whose lives/fates become intertwined in some profound way, perhaps having to do with the secrets that each family is keeping - or so the text darkly hints. Instead, Shapiro gives us two families that, apart from living across the street from each other, barely interact; and a single secret, related to a tragic accident, that ends up contributing little to the story. (The accidental itself is meaningful; the lie related to the accident, not so much.)

The summary likewise promises "a magical story ... where stars collapse and stories collide." Instead, the novel delivers a cast of rather ordinary people facing a host of rather ordinary problems: spouses battling Alzheimer's, neurodivergent children, inferiority complexes, poor parenting, survivor guilt. The characters are largely static and not entirely credible: one set of parents is a little too perfect, the other set of parents a little too awful, and all the children are endowed with improbable giftedness (a producer of award winning films, a famous chef, a brilliant astrophysicist). The lives of the characters wax and wane in ways that are more or less recognizable, but certainly nothing one would describe as "magical."

The summary suggests that astrophysics will serve as a metaphor for human interconnection, but I don't feel like Shapiro makes this work either. Telling the story out of sequence (the chapters hop through time) is an interesting gimmick, but not nearly enough to establish that "perhaps time is not a continuum, but rather, past, present and future are always and forever unspooling." And while it's technically true that we are all of us comprised of star stuff (insofar as all atoms are borne from stars), that's hardly solid ground for asserting that "Perhaps each [star] is what remains of every soul who has ever lived." Souls, friendship, love, guilt, joy ... these are all things that transcend periodic tables and the laws of physics.

Finally, I'm at a loss to understand why this won the National Jewish Book Award, as neither Jewish spirituality, tradition, nor identity influence the tale in any meaningful way. Honestly, besides a few references to bar mitzvahs and sitting shiva, the families could be Rastafarians for all it matters to the plot or character development.

I've read some other reviews that suggest that this may be one of Shapiro's weaker efforts. I've also read that this is her first novel in 15yrs. Perhaps the reviewers who heaped praises on this are considering her collected works rather than this outing in particular?
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Dorritt | 19 other reviews | Feb 1, 2024 |
Ultimately I worry this is the weakest of Shapiro's novels which generally I've really liked. She's got a great way with words and atmosphere. What failed for me in this novel was the plethora of characters who basically all make the same mistakes with the same dialogue. Too bad.
sparemethecensor | 19 other reviews | Nov 17, 2023 |
Reason Read: JBC read for October
This is a memoir by an author who describes herself as an author of memoirs. This one is about what can happen when you do one of those DNA genealogy exams. It was okay. I am not fond of memoirs in general. I think they can be cathartic for people but how much can you really dwell on yourself that you become an author of memoirs. And as far as a memoir goes this one hit all the points; relevant, coherent. I don’t like memoirs and I am reluctant to do DNA testing. Perhaps this book supports another reason not to do DNA testing.… (more)
Kristelh | 54 other reviews | Oct 27, 2023 |



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