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Devotion: A Memoir

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“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.” —Jennifer Egan, author of The Keep “I was immensely moved by this elegant book.” —Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love Dani Shapiro, the acclaimed author of the novel Black and White and the “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.” —Jennifer Egan, author of The Keep “I was immensely moved by this elegant book.” —Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love Dani Shapiro, the acclaimed author of the novel Black and White and the bestselling memoir Slow Motion, is back with Devotion: a searching and timeless new memoir that examines the fundamental questions that wake women in the middle of the night, and grapples with the ways faith, prayer, and devotion affect everyday life. Devotion is sure to appeal to all those dealing with the trials and tribulations of what Carl Jung called “the afternoon of life.”


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“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.” —Jennifer Egan, author of The Keep “I was immensely moved by this elegant book.” —Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love Dani Shapiro, the acclaimed author of the novel Black and White and the “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.” —Jennifer Egan, author of The Keep “I was immensely moved by this elegant book.” —Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love Dani Shapiro, the acclaimed author of the novel Black and White and the bestselling memoir Slow Motion, is back with Devotion: a searching and timeless new memoir that examines the fundamental questions that wake women in the middle of the night, and grapples with the ways faith, prayer, and devotion affect everyday life. Devotion is sure to appeal to all those dealing with the trials and tribulations of what Carl Jung called “the afternoon of life.”

30 review for Devotion: A Memoir

  1. 4 out of 5

    Elyse (retired from reviewing/semi hiatus) Walters

    Audiobook memoir... read by Dani Shapiro. ....”Devotion” was a perfect fit-read for my mood. Dani’s writing is kinda- phenomenal!! REALLY GORGEOUS!!! I found it fascinating that Dani’s Father was an Orthodox Jew and her mother was an atheists... It’s almost impossible not to share the book’s contents.... but my hands are tied. MANY LIFE-WORTHY -THEMES ARE COVERED. I DO WANT TO STRESS THIS IS A ***WONDERFUL*** AUDIOBOOK COMPANION... Dani Shapiro faced her emptiness-her inner struggles - and the losses Audiobook memoir... read by Dani Shapiro. ....”Devotion” was a perfect fit-read for my mood. Dani’s writing is kinda- phenomenal!! REALLY GORGEOUS!!! I found it fascinating that Dani’s Father was an Orthodox Jew and her mother was an atheists... It’s almost impossible not to share the book’s contents.... but my hands are tied. MANY LIFE-WORTHY -THEMES ARE COVERED. I DO WANT TO STRESS THIS IS A ***WONDERFUL*** AUDIOBOOK COMPANION... Dani Shapiro faced her emptiness-her inner struggles - and the losses with gut honestly.... She spoke with grace, with clarity, and wisdom. No... she doesn’t provide answers - However, Dani crafted a path to better understanding and finding peace. Sounds like a ‘woo-woo’ book? Honest.... it’s not!!!! If you are Jewish - or not - have kids or not - married or not - lived through 911 or not- your parents are alive or not - you do yoga or not - enjoy family dinners of pasta -French bread - and dessert - or not - are a group joiner or not - There is value in book for everyone. Read it or not .... wishing freedom & well being for everyone! ☯️

  2. 4 out of 5

    Marty

    This book was great. I thought it was going to be another project-for-a-year-memoir (like Eat, Pray, Love or The Happiness Project), this time about finding spirituality. But it's much better than that - instead of being a formulaic project, it's a book-length meditation on the meaning of life, on joy, on mortality, and on God and faith. It's beautifully written and deeply absorbing. Early in the book, it's clear that the author is a pretty anxious person: "Nothing - absolutely nothing I could put This book was great. I thought it was going to be another project-for-a-year-memoir (like Eat, Pray, Love or The Happiness Project), this time about finding spirituality. But it's much better than that - instead of being a formulaic project, it's a book-length meditation on the meaning of life, on joy, on mortality, and on God and faith. It's beautifully written and deeply absorbing. Early in the book, it's clear that the author is a pretty anxious person: "Nothing - absolutely nothing I could put my finger on - was the matter. Except that I was often on the verge of tears. Except that it seems that there had to be more than this hodgepodge of the everyday. Inside each joy was a hard kernel of sadness, as if I was always preparing myself for impending loss." Um, hello, that's me. I struggle with many of the questions and feelings that Shapiro does, and I found it really comforting to read this book. Both because I identified with her, and because though this book doesn't offer any answers, I feel like I understand just a little bit more how I want to live and how I want my life to be.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Joan Winnek

    My first book by this author, it gripped and enlightened me, and prompted me to order more of her books. A well-written, thoughtful memoir that intricately explores many ambiguities, the book draws from private and particular experiences and circumstances, and doesn't lose its footing as it approaches meaning-of-life issues. It's how we live, explored from the perspective of one woman, and enlightened by her explorations into many traditions and practices. When I finish a book that particularly My first book by this author, it gripped and enlightened me, and prompted me to order more of her books. A well-written, thoughtful memoir that intricately explores many ambiguities, the book draws from private and particular experiences and circumstances, and doesn't lose its footing as it approaches meaning-of-life issues. It's how we live, explored from the perspective of one woman, and enlightened by her explorations into many traditions and practices. When I finish a book that particularly moves me, I go back through my postit flags and enter some passages on my quotations on this site. I don't know how to share these with my friends, but if you go to quotes and sort for my name and the author (and title maybe), you can see what I've recorded. I can't resist adding, snarkily, that this book sharply contrasts with Elizabeth Gilbert's Eat, Pray, Love, which left me mildly disaffected--but now I hate it.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Barb

    I may take a rest from this genre (middle age spiritual quest) for awhile, even though I liked this book very much. Much like "discovering" motherhood in my 20's and 30's, I'm coming head to head with the visceral knowledge of death as a reality, not just some abstract occurrence in the far off future. It's that time of life when the busyness of children and career start to fade; the importance of things seems inconsequential; the body starts its revolt and the essential "aloneness" of life I may take a rest from this genre (middle age spiritual quest) for awhile, even though I liked this book very much. Much like "discovering" motherhood in my 20's and 30's, I'm coming head to head with the visceral knowledge of death as a reality, not just some abstract occurrence in the far off future. It's that time of life when the busyness of children and career start to fade; the importance of things seems inconsequential; the body starts its revolt and the essential "aloneness" of life reasserts itself. No wonder we start looking for answers!! And reading about others' journeys helps me with my own.

  5. 5 out of 5

    StMargarets

    I've been following this author since I first picked up Fugitive Blue in the library way back in the early 1990's. I was fascinated with the tension between her Orthodox Jewish background and living in the secular world. She followed up her novels with a series of memoirs and from them, I learned of her great love and respect for her father, a very devout man. I also learned how she never felt she fit in with his family and community, but she kept seeking answers. Well, taking an Ancestry. com I've been following this author since I first picked up Fugitive Blue in the library way back in the early 1990's. I was fascinated with the tension between her Orthodox Jewish background and living in the secular world. She followed up her novels with a series of memoirs and from them, I learned of her great love and respect for her father, a very devout man. I also learned how she never felt she fit in with his family and community, but she kept seeking answers. Well, taking an Ancestry. com test on a whim gave her an answer - that man wasn't her bio dad. This memoir takes a deep dive into just how that happened (her parents were both dead when she discovered this). It seems her parents went to an unlicensed fertility clinic. Her mother was inseminated with sperm from an anonymous medical student. So this memoir is part solving a mystery and following clues - part vindication for always feeling an outsider - and part how to deal with such an existential crises when you're 54 years old. I thought the first two parts were handled well. The last - that existential crisis - is still a work in progress. I guess the lesson I took away from this is that your story is never really over, it it? No neat bows to tie every thread together.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Judith

    This year, I am interested in reading books about how people find and/or lose their faith, which brought me to this book about a middle-aged woman's search for her own religious and/or spiritual journey. She had a nice style and a nice story to tell, which is why I kept reading it. But by the time I was finished, I felt like I had spent an afternoon talking to a passenger in the seat beside me on a trip across the country. Entertained but not enlightened. I think maybe I have read enough of This year, I am interested in reading books about how people find and/or lose their faith, which brought me to this book about a middle-aged woman's search for her own religious and/or spiritual journey. She had a nice style and a nice story to tell, which is why I kept reading it. But by the time I was finished, I felt like I had spent an afternoon talking to a passenger in the seat beside me on a trip across the country. Entertained but not enlightened. I think maybe I have read enough of those spiritual journey memoirs, but I am afraid that this trend will be popular for awhile yet to come. I liked hearing about her handsome husband and her beautiful son and their life together on a farm in Connecticut where they moved after 9/11 from NYC. I really liked all the anecdotes about her very wealthy and totally bitchy mother and their doomed relationship. But I felt like an outsider when she described all the Jewish ceremonies and uniforms, rituals and icons. An outsider like someone was telling me, "You wouldn't see the significance of this unless you were Jewish." In the end, it was ultimately a very articulate and well-written book. I just found that I wasn't interested in the religious aspects of the book, which were the whole point of reading the book.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Caroline

    It's not that I can't enjoy a memoir about exploring one's spirituality -- for all its problems, I really kind of enjoyed Eat, Pray, Love, the book with which this one will inevitably be compared. Dani Shapiro's memoir is blessedly shorter, and far less indulgent, and really struck much closer to home. She's a mom, I'm a mom; her father had a deep connection to and daily practice of his faith, just like my dad has. But for all that, and despite some lovely writing in spots, this left me just It's not that I can't enjoy a memoir about exploring one's spirituality -- for all its problems, I really kind of enjoyed Eat, Pray, Love, the book with which this one will inevitably be compared. Dani Shapiro's memoir is blessedly shorter, and far less indulgent, and really struck much closer to home. She's a mom, I'm a mom; her father had a deep connection to and daily practice of his faith, just like my dad has. But for all that, and despite some lovely writing in spots, this left me just kind of wondering what the big deal was.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Stacye

    I had to work to get through this one. From the very beginning this author sounds whiny and self-involved. As she goes on and on describing her navel, I could't help thinking "Damn! What would she do with a real problem?" Ok...that's not fair. There was a scare with her child, but COME ON! Move on already! As she describes herself in her beautiful home in an affluent area where she probably looks good in her yoga pants, I flashed on Elizabeth Gilbert, whose book I enjoyed much more than this but I had to work to get through this one. From the very beginning this author sounds whiny and self-involved. As she goes on and on describing her navel, I could't help thinking "Damn! What would she do with a real problem?" Ok...that's not fair. There was a scare with her child, but COME ON! Move on already! As she describes herself in her beautiful home in an affluent area where she probably looks good in her yoga pants, I flashed on Elizabeth Gilbert, whose book I enjoyed much more than this but who, also, basically bought her enlightenment. Moral of this story? My income isn't high enough to achieve nirvana. But we already knew that, didn't we?

  9. 4 out of 5

    Ashleigh Walls

    I was really disappointed. After watching Dani Shapiro on the Today show describing her first face-to-face interaction with her yogi ("when the student is ready the teacher appears"), I had high hopes for this book. Instead it was self-serving and whiney the entire way through. Ms. Shapiro's disjointed search to quantify or label her spirituality leaves the reader thinking she is nothing but a spoiled housewife. Nowhere in her story does she practice the true meaning of spirituality -- sharing.

  10. 4 out of 5

    M

    I think Dani is just not for me. This obsessive, dark and brooding memoir details, extensively, her confused and confusing thoughts about God and her place in the world which, though a relatable struggle, is simply not all that interesting when it's someone else's. I found this to be repetitive, whiny and irritating. It touched upon a lot of Liz Gilbert's thoughts in EPL, but this one lacked the punch and likability and seemed to instead deliver only the stream of consciousness and me me me I think Dani is just not for me. This obsessive, dark and brooding memoir details, extensively, her confused and confusing thoughts about God and her place in the world which, though a relatable struggle, is simply not all that interesting when it's someone else's. I found this to be repetitive, whiny and irritating. It touched upon a lot of Liz Gilbert's thoughts in EPL, but this one lacked the punch and likability and seemed to instead deliver only the stream of consciousness and me me me -ness.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Phyllis

    This woman is an idiot. I wanted to slap her. She needs to do some volunteer work and see people who really have problems.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Michelle

    I've mentioned this before - and the more I experience the life of a book reviewer/blogger, the more I firmly believe this to be true - books have a way of coming across our path when they are most needed, when they will speak to us the most. Over the past two-plus years, as I have finally started paying attention, I have read many a novel or memoir that resonated with me specifically because they touched on something for which I too was searching. Dani Shapiro's Devotion is yet another example I've mentioned this before - and the more I experience the life of a book reviewer/blogger, the more I firmly believe this to be true - books have a way of coming across our path when they are most needed, when they will speak to us the most. Over the past two-plus years, as I have finally started paying attention, I have read many a novel or memoir that resonated with me specifically because they touched on something for which I too was searching. Dani Shapiro's Devotion is yet another example of this phenomenon. Ms. Shapiro is facing what most of us without deep faith end up questioning - is this all there is to life? How many of us have sat in an endless meeting and wondered the same thing? How many of us have actually done something about it, whether it is searching out a like-minded group, starting a daily meditation practice, taking up yoga, attending a church group, or some other search for something larger than the mundane? When facing the rest of her life, at a personal crossroads and searching for peace of mind and a greater purpose, Ms Shapiro actively sought out these practices and shares her experiences with readers. Deeply personal, incredibly poignant, her soul-searching takes her on a roller coaster of a journey, through which the reader can glean his or her own key points to adapt to his or her own life. One's search for greater meaning is personal, as is Ms. Shapiro's. Yet, there is much a reader can learn from Ms. Shapiro's journey. Having faith, of any sort, means standing on the edge of a precipice and not fretting about the fall, or the potential to fall. It means living in the moment. This, to me, is the greatest gift and most meaningful lesson to be learned in this day and age of multi-tasking and constant connection to the world. "One afternoon at Garrison, Sharon Salzberg spoke about a Buddhist teach in India, a widowed woman with many, many children who had no time to sit on a cushion, meditating. How had she done it then? Sharon had once asked her. How had she achieved her remarkable ability to live in the present? The answer was simply this: she stirred the rice mindfully." (pg. 211) To focus only on the task at hand means to live in the moment, to learn to put aside the fears and concerns, the demands and constant pulls we feel in our lives. It allows us to be still and be calm, whether we are driving, writing, sitting in meetings, running errands or stirring the rice. Something so simple has the ability to change so much. Devotion is not for everyone, although I do feel there is much that everyone could learn from Ms. Shapiro's journey. She goes into detail about her Jewish heritage, her religious upbringing and the conflicts that resulted as she grew older, rebelled, and started her own family. She spends a lot of time discussing her yoga and meditation. In addition, her writing style is very journalistic. Each chapter is relatively short and discusses whatever happened to be on her mind at the time of writing. This means that the story of her son's illness is explained slowly throughout the story, popping up on one page and not mentioned again for another 20 or 30 pages. This modified stream-of-consciousness adds an air of poignancy and intimacy to the entire memoir, as the reader catches more than a glimpse of Ms. Shapiro's inner yearnings and struggles. The result is a beautiful reminder that wanting more is okay, but we also need to be willing to put forth the effort to finding more to life. For those who have ever questioned, Devotion is a great start to one's own search for more. Thank you to Erica Barmash from Harper Collins for my review copy!

  13. 5 out of 5

    Sarah Joyce Bryant

    I read Devotion in two days/two sittings. The structure of the book – chapters starting right where the last ended – made it difficult to find a place to stop reading and I loved it. Dani Shapiro’s narrative was so personal and spoke to me on such a deep level and that structure gave me permission to keep reading…just one more chapter. What Shapiro wrote about: Is this all there is to life? If so, why do I feel like something’s missing?, and the spiritual quest that she began, is something I read Devotion in two days/two sittings. The structure of the book – chapters starting right where the last ended – made it difficult to find a place to stop reading and I loved it. Dani Shapiro’s narrative was so personal and spoke to me on such a deep level and that structure gave me permission to keep reading…just one more chapter. What Shapiro wrote about: Is this all there is to life? If so, why do I feel like something’s missing?, and the spiritual quest that she began, is something universal to many of us these days as we watch the ground we once thought was impenetrable disintegrating before our eyes. Shapiro has what seems a charmed life, but at the root of her quest are a lot of loss, deep loneliness, and an inability to relinquish control of the uncontrollable. For those who have experienced great loss and tragedy or have come through a “near miss” it is very difficult to trust that everything will be okay. Instead, they spend most of their time thinking about what bad thing might happen next and how they can avoid it. Shapiro addresses how “…we’re all complicated by the way we were raised” as she tries to come to terms with her strict religious upbringing and the guilt she feels for seeking other ways to find God and meaning in her life other than just the Judaism in which she was raised. I loved the interweaving of samskara (our knots of energy that each tells a story) throughout Shapiro’s narrative. She says, “Release a samskara and you release that story. Release your stories, and suddenly there is more room to breathe, to feel, to experience the world” which is what she is doing by writing this book. We are all a compilation of these stories. Some we share. Some we cannot bare to acknowledge. I equally loved Sylvia Boorstein’s metta meditation chants (the condensed version). I believe it is a wonderful way to begin a meditation routine and is something so simple that we can bring it with us wherever we go. There is also a practice Shapiro discovers at a California yoga studio that she incorporates into the end of her yoga routine that is again so simple, yet extremely powerful. There are so many stunning moments that pierced right through me, so many questions that I have asked myself sitting right there on the page. Shapiro writes in such an accessible way you feel like you are taking the journey with her, discovering what she is discovering right there with her, and equally feeling her frustration at the lack of solid answers to the existential questions that haunt us. I highly recommend this book to anyone who is unsettled and is searching for that elusive something that will help them feel more grounded. Keeping an open mind and reading about others’ experiences are the best ways to move towards that more peaceful state of being even if we find that there are no answers and we must just “live inside the questions.”Devotion: A Memoir Dani Shapiro

  14. 4 out of 5

    Sharon Bright

    Shapiro has a way about her writing; simple and inspiring. Chapters don't necessarily run in chronological order but at the end you feel you've been invited into her world and nothing is left unanswered. She has a beautiful way of choosing the most relevant moments to share, in order to have you relating and provoked, without necessarily wrapping events into an unrealistic neat bow. This is the third book I've binged of hers. The woman knows her way around a memoir. How amazing that she has Shapiro has a way about her writing; simple and inspiring. Chapters don't necessarily run in chronological order but at the end you feel you've been invited into her world and nothing is left unanswered. She has a beautiful way of choosing the most relevant moments to share, in order to have you relating and provoked, without necessarily wrapping events into an unrealistic neat bow. This is the third book I've binged of hers. The woman knows her way around a memoir. How amazing that she has gathered so much creative steam from what life has given her.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Antonia

    I read this because I’d just finished Shapiro’s Hourglass: Time, Memory, Marriage and wanted more, but this wasn’t really it. I should have known from the title. In general, I’m just not interested in faith, prayer, and spiritual seeking. Shapiro is a really good writer and that kept me reading, but it was far less satisfying than Hourglass.

  16. 4 out of 5

    thewanderingjew

    From the first page, I believed that Dani Shapiro was presenting an honest appraisal of her search for herself and the meaning of her life. As she pretty much bares her soul and her secrets, she seems to be exposing her fears and weaknesses in an effort to face them in the light of day and better deal with them. She worries about things that haven’t happened but devises all sorts of scenarios about what might happen and then spends her time trying to prevent them from happening or prepares for From the first page, I believed that Dani Shapiro was presenting an honest appraisal of her search for herself and the meaning of her life. As she pretty much bares her soul and her secrets, she seems to be exposing her fears and weaknesses in an effort to face them in the light of day and better deal with them. She worries about things that haven’t happened but devises all sorts of scenarios about what might happen and then spends her time trying to prevent them from happening or prepares for their eventuality. She is wasting a lot of time and effort on imaginary circumstances. It can be exhausting and draining. She is plagued with insecurity. Having suffered through a near tragedy and some loss in her life, she is more susceptible to fears about them recurring; however, I believe that having escaped and/or dealt with the suffering, one usually becomes more sensitive to, and appreciates far more, the meaning of life and its value. Life is seen through the lens of experience and there is an essential feeling of gratitude for the second chance that has been given. There is a feeling that there might be a greater power out there that is controlling events, someone else pulling the strings of the human puppets. Through various events in her life, she explains the anxiety she experiences, just from living everyday. She connects with the reader and as I began to think about my own life, I remembered how I reacted in similar circumstances. It was as if I was seeing parts of my life through the mirror of her eyes. The writing style is light but the message is deep, not trivial. At the end of the book, Dani Shapiro is still a somewhat quasi atheist, questioning her beliefs and viewing the world through the teachings of her religious background. She has taken a spiritual journey and, although not actually practicing her Judaism devoutly, she is instead following traditions and rituals. She explores her past, hoping for self discovery, looking inward, mostly through yoga meditation. She constantly engages in soul searching in an attempt to live in the moment and find inner peace. There are 102 flashbacks which reveal her attempts to analyze and work through her worries; she explores her relationship with her mother, her experiences regarding 9/11, her attendance at AA meetings, her son’s illness, her love for her father, and several other momentous occasions in her life. Although at first, I wasn’t sure I would like this book as much as I did, I came to really appreciate its message. It made me stop and think about moments in my life, memories that I have not come to terms with, and helped me to view them in another light, more openly and with less sorrow and anger. Her message, throughout the book, is "live safe, live happy, live strong, live with ease". Paraphrasing from a quote in her book, “don’t live so far into the future that you lose the present”. Enjoy the moment.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Kristen

    I think I came to this book at exactly the right moment. Like Dani Shapiro, I am looking to “opt back in” to a religious - or, at least, a spiritual - identity and want to “form – if not an opinion – a set of feelings and instincts by which to live.” Her struggles toward feeling and defining a presence in her life larger than herself especially resonated with me. Shapiro presents the book in a series of mini-chapters, which do leap around a bit, but which I think symbolize her search for lessons I think I came to this book at exactly the right moment. Like Dani Shapiro, I am looking to “opt back in” to a religious - or, at least, a spiritual - identity and want to “form – if not an opinion – a set of feelings and instincts by which to live.” Her struggles toward feeling and defining a presence in her life larger than herself especially resonated with me. Shapiro presents the book in a series of mini-chapters, which do leap around a bit, but which I think symbolize her search for lessons in faith wherever she might find them. I suppose that this reflective memoir might border on navel gazing at times, but, since I'm gazing at my navel in the same way these days, I felt lucky to join Shapiro on her journey.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Chris

    A beautiful memoir about searching for answers. Sometimes we pick up books at just the right time. This was one of those cases.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Emily

    I've been on a bit of a Dani Shapiro kick lately, though I've been reading her memoirs in a strange order: first Inheritance: A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity, and Love, her latest; followed by Slow Motion, her first memoir, published over twenty years earlier. In Devotion, published in between the two I'd already read, Dani focuses on her spiritual quest, as a Jewish woman who grew up witnessing her orthodox father's intense devotion to the faith, but is now more of a lapsed Jew herself. Even I've been on a bit of a Dani Shapiro kick lately, though I've been reading her memoirs in a strange order: first Inheritance: A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity, and Love, her latest; followed by Slow Motion, her first memoir, published over twenty years earlier. In Devotion, published in between the two I'd already read, Dani focuses on her spiritual quest, as a Jewish woman who grew up witnessing her orthodox father's intense devotion to the faith, but is now more of a lapsed Jew herself. Even though I am not a Jew, I could relate to her search for meaning and her own spiritual beliefs, through yoga, meditation, reading, and so forth. I found the book well-written and affecting, like the memoirs I'd read previously, since I can relate to Dani Shapiro in many ways. I have several things in common with her, from being the same age, to dealing with the loss of a beloved father due to a car accident (and eerily, both our fathers were on strong painkillers following back surgery, which contributed to the crashes), to miscarriage, to drinking too much at certain life stages, to an interest in and practice of yoga. There are also many differences between us, like her relationship with her prickly mother and her Judiaism, of course, but having anxious worries like the ones she explores in this book is yet another thing I could relate to. I think maybe once one loses a parent unexpectedly and tragically, it can lead to a loss of innocence and a bit of magical thinking: that since crazily bad things can happen in an instant, if one thinks about them, imagines them, perhaps one can keep them from happening. I took off one star because the focus on her Jewish faith was of less interest to me than the rest of the story, but really, that was my only ding. The pages flew by in this thoughtful memoir -- and her words made me think and reflect on my own life as well.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Erika Robuck

    “I had begun to feel–and it was a bitter feeling–that the world could be divided into two kinds of people; those with an awareness of life’s inherent fragility and randomness, and those who believed they were exempt…I didn’t know that there was a third way of being…The third way…had to do with holding this paradox lightly in one’s own hands.” (Ch. 57) Devotion: A Memoir, by Dani Shapiro, was released in January of 2010. This intimate exploration of Shapiro’s spirituality was inspired by her son’s “I had begun to feel–and it was a bitter feeling–that the world could be divided into two kinds of people; those with an awareness of life’s inherent fragility and randomness, and those who believed they were exempt…I didn’t know that there was a third way of being…The third way…had to do with holding this paradox lightly in one’s own hands.” (Ch. 57) Devotion: A Memoir, by Dani Shapiro, was released in January of 2010. This intimate exploration of Shapiro’s spirituality was inspired by her son’s innocent questions about God and the afterlife that she couldn’t answer. In small chapters and reflections, Shapiro reveals how a yogi, a rabbi, and a Buddhist helped guide her on her journey toward understanding. While she doesn’t necessarily find the answers, she at least learns to ask the questions and find peace with her doubt, her process, her heritage, and her loved ones. I thought I’d dip a toe into this memoir and read it in small bites with all the other books I’m reading, but it edged out everything else. Ms. Shapiro’s voice is at once confident and unsure, serious and humorous, quiet and assertive. Her honesty is captivating, and she has the courage to name many of the struggles of family, career, and spirituality that others have difficulty articulating. I enthusiastically and widely recommend Devotion. There are a thousand gems worth mentioning in the book, but without their context they lose their impact. I’ll leave you with this small passage from Ms. Shapiro that sums up one of the simplest (yet most challenging) ways of finding meaning amidst the chaos of daily life. “One afternoon…Sharon Salzberg spoke about a Buddhist teacher in India, a widowed woman with many, many children who had no time to sit on a cushion, meditating. How had she done it, then?…How had she achieved her remarkable ability to live in the present? The answer was simply this: she stirred the rice mindfully.” (89)

  21. 5 out of 5

    JoAnn

    4.5 / 5 stars Excellent memoir about the role of faith in daily life. I listened to the audio version read by author, but will also purchase a print copy.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Lauren Davis

    Parts of this I liked very much -- I'm a sucker for sobriety stories -- and Shapiro has a clear, straightforward writing style, but in the end I found the insights not quite as well.. insightful... as I might have hoped. I was anticipating seeing something old in a new way, or seeing something heretofore unnoticed. That didn't quite happen. I didn't find anything new, although a few things I could easily identify with. Perhaps another reader, in a different place in his or her life, would have a Parts of this I liked very much -- I'm a sucker for sobriety stories -- and Shapiro has a clear, straightforward writing style, but in the end I found the insights not quite as well.. insightful... as I might have hoped. I was anticipating seeing something old in a new way, or seeing something heretofore unnoticed. That didn't quite happen. I didn't find anything new, although a few things I could easily identify with. Perhaps another reader, in a different place in his or her life, would have a different takeaway.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Siobhan Fallon

    I find myself using Devotion like a book of daily reflections. I like picking it up and reading one of the brief chapters and then pausing and thinking on it. Very meditative and relaxing, though Dani Shaprio writes this the way she writes her fast paced novels: you get caught up in the tension of the first page and keep reading to find out what could possibly happen next to the narrator. But the questions on faith, and what we should pass on to our children in this world of doubt, resonates I find myself using Devotion like a book of daily reflections. I like picking it up and reading one of the brief chapters and then pausing and thinking on it. Very meditative and relaxing, though Dani Shaprio writes this the way she writes her fast paced novels: you get caught up in the tension of the first page and keep reading to find out what could possibly happen next to the narrator. But the questions on faith, and what we should pass on to our children in this world of doubt, resonates with me each time I take a look.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Tanya

    Ugh. I got halfway thru and just couldn't take it anymore. The author was SO whiney and I thought her flippant attitude toward her religion was unnecessary and frankly offended. Maybe she achieves her sense of devotion by the end of the memoir but I have other books to read. Such a disappointment.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Arielle

    An excellent combination of being both boring and pointless. Plus, her transliterations from Hebrew to English are terrible.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Sarah Fite

    2nd read. Absorbed every passage.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Ginger Bensman

    A memoir about family, faith, and motherhood. Each short chapter is a meditation in its own right. Exactly the book I needed right now. Thank you, Dani Shapiro.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Laura K

    Loved it and I did a lot of underlining – just as I loved and marked passages in her book Hourglass. I liked how one reviewer (excerpted from the pages before the book began) called Dani Shapiro the “gifted chronicler of frayed nerves”. And another that said the book was “powerful and haunting” and how she did such a good job in bringing other people to life in her descriptions. I agree. It was eloquently written and I relate so much to the way she thinks. There were many observations she made Loved it and I did a lot of underlining – just as I loved and marked passages in her book Hourglass. I liked how one reviewer (excerpted from the pages before the book began) called Dani Shapiro the “gifted chronicler of frayed nerves”. And another that said the book was “powerful and haunting” and how she did such a good job in bringing other people to life in her descriptions. I agree. It was eloquently written and I relate so much to the way she thinks. There were many observations she made that uncannily matched my thoughts exactly on many topics (religion/faith, middle age, etc.). I am very curious to read her current book Inheritance where she uncovers information about her family through DNA testing. Having that glimpse into the future while reading this book was interesting because of the disconnect she seemed to have with her family. Some of my favorite quotes: If ‘God doesn’t give us more than we can handle’ is my least favorite bromide, my second least favorite is this: ‘Everything happens for a reason’….I was certain there was no reason. No reason at all. There is only luck, timing, consequences. Infinitesimal moments that added up and became personal tragedies, personal miracles. I was relieved that my friend was home safe – but something about her story was rubbing me the wrong way. Oh, so God singled you out for good fortune? For being on the right side of near misses? For specialness? I wasn’t hearing my own breath. I was always either stuck in the past, or obsessing about the future, while the present heaped its gifts on me, screaming for attention. This was the way it had always been for me: all or nothing, I realized, invariably led to nothing. I was longing for the moment I was in, even as I was in it. I was mourning it, as if we were already a yellowed photograph in an album….It was a lesson I needed to learn over and over again: to stop and simply be. To recognize these moments and enter them – with reverence and an unprotected heart – as if walking into a cathedral. I always had to brace myself for these school events. I felt cut off from the other parents, as if they lived in a country to which I had been denied access….I didn’t want to avail myself of the volunteering opportunities: the book fair, the auction. I was confused by my own response to the school community. Didn’t I want to be part of a community?...I felt isolated, though of course I was responsible for my own isolation. I had reached the middle of my life and knew less than I ever had before. I know that the worst either happens or it doesn’t. Worry is not a form of protection. So who’s the fool? I had gotten a peek at the enemy, and she was me. No matter where my mind went, it all boiled down to this: it kept comparing. Deep within my body, the past is still alive. Everything that has ever happened keeps happening. I had begun to feel – and it was a bitter feeling – that the world could be divided into two kinds of people: those with an awareness of life’s inherent fragility and randomness, and those who believed they were exempt. Pleasure and pain, gain and loss, praise and blame, fame and disrepute, as the Buddhists say. All lives contain all of these. It wasn’t getting easier because it isn’t supposed to get easier. Midlife was a bitch, and my educated guess was that the climb only got steeper from here. Carl Jung put it perfectly: “Thoroughly unprepared we take the step into the afternoon of life.”…. Are we unprepared simply because preparation is not possible?...We can’t see what’s coming. We can’t know it. All we have is our hope that all will be well, and our knowledge that it won’t always be so. We live in the space between this hope and this knowledge. Whatever you think you can do or believe you can do, begin it. Action has magic, grace and power in it. We were complicated by our history, by the religion of our ancestors….I could take the bits and pieces that made sense to me, and incorporate them into the larger patchwork of our lives.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Kasey Jueds

    I loved, loved, loved this book. Which surprised me, because I wasn't particularly into the Dani Shapiro novel I tried to read. Maybe I didn't try hard enough. Because this book is beautifully written and very, very moving. It isn't really specifically about Buddhism, though it's one tradition Shapiro investigates in her effort to (for lack of better words) get more spiritual (she also explores yoga and Judaism, which is her family tradition). I'm making the book sound silly and lightweight, I loved, loved, loved this book. Which surprised me, because I wasn't particularly into the Dani Shapiro novel I tried to read. Maybe I didn't try hard enough. Because this book is beautifully written and very, very moving. It isn't really specifically about Buddhism, though it's one tradition Shapiro investigates in her effort to (for lack of better words) get more spiritual (she also explores yoga and Judaism, which is her family tradition). I'm making the book sound silly and lightweight, which it isn't, at all. Shapiro describes beautifully so many things that are so difficult to describe; meditation is a good example. And I was so so glad that this wasn't one of those "I found yoga and now my life is perfect" kinds of memoirs. Shapiro is very honest about everything she goes through, including rough edges, pain, and not knowing--and the book feels organic and heart-felt as a result.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Susan

    As I get older, I am trying to find ways to become satisfied with who I am, and if I am not satisfied, to change. I was looking to this book to portray another 40-something woman, trying to come to terms with who she is. Unfortunately, it didn't really ring true to me. I agree with another reviewer, who stated that if you weren't Jewish or knew of the Jewish customs, you were kind of left in the dark. So I felt like I missed out on a lot of the book, not understanding where she came from or As I get older, I am trying to find ways to become satisfied with who I am, and if I am not satisfied, to change. I was looking to this book to portray another 40-something woman, trying to come to terms with who she is. Unfortunately, it didn't really ring true to me. I agree with another reviewer, who stated that if you weren't Jewish or knew of the Jewish customs, you were kind of left in the dark. So I felt like I missed out on a lot of the book, not understanding where she came from or where she was trying to go. However, I did like some of the information she shared from the other yogis and I will be looking to some of their books to gain some insight.

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