Friday, February 22, 2019

Inheritance

Title:  Inheritance
Author:  Dani Shapiro
Publication Information:  Knopf. 2019. 272 pages.
ISBN:  1524732710 / 978-1524732714

Book Source:  I received this book through the Penguin First to Read program free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "When I was a girl I would sneak down the hall late at night once my parents were asleep."

Favorite Quote:  "... either all of us are accidents of history or  none of us are. One sperm, one egg, one moment. An interruption - a ringing phone, a knock on the door, a flashlight through the car window - a single second one way or the other and the result would be an entirely different human being."

Dani Shapiro's memoirs - at least the two I have read so far - tend to ponder big questions. Marriage. Life itself. Identity. Family. If you are in an appropriate frame of mind for that thought process, then these books are for you. I find that with the two I have read, I have been willing to follow along for almost three hundred pages as Ms. Shapiro seems to think out loud through the dilemmas of her life. For me, the books just work.

Ms. Shapiro is quite honest in the role of a memoir. ".... when it comes to memoir, there is no such thing as absolute truth - only the truth that is singularly their own." Her writing is a carefully crafted work put forth in front of readers. Yet, her books manage to create an intimacy that makes me feel like I am in a conversation with a friend sharing her innermost thoughts. I go along on the journey with her. Call that the craft of writing. I choose to read as if I have been let in to those thoughts; it makes for a richer reading experience.

All of this is a testament to the writing before even getting to the content of the book. This memoir deals with the question of identity. "Throughout history, great philosophic minds have grappled with the nature of identity. What makes a person a person? What combination of memory, history,  imagination, experience, subjectivity, genetic substance, and that ineffable thing called the soul makes us who we are? Is who we are the same as who we believe ourselves to be?"

Ms. Shapiro looks at this question in light of shocking news that makes her question her own identity and place in her family. She and her husband gets quite a shock when a casually done DNA test reveals that biologically, she is not the daughter of Paul Shapiro, the father she has known and loved all her life. This further raises the question of whether the faith with which she has been raised is her own for it is not the faith and culture of her biological father. This sets her on a path to discover her biological origins and also on a path to define the way in which this knowledge changes her identity. "All my life I had knows there was a secret. What I hadn't known:  the secret was me."

The book follows both her practical search and her emotional journey in equal proportion. Admittedly, her practical search is simpler than many in that situation may encounter. It is not without its struggles, but her questions are answered. She knows who her biological father is and how the story of her birth transpired. Having the factual answer does not, however, answer the questions of why. That question may forever remain unanswered, which in and of itself becomes something to be grappled with emotionally.

Most of us have not had a shock to our identity in that manner. However, that feeling of not belonging and questioning our place in the world is the one is one many people can relate to. I know that I do. That is another reason the book resonates with me.


Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

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