I have already told you about my experience with Dani Shapiro’s excellent book on writing called Still Writing (2013). Reading it made me curious about Shapiro’s authorship, so I went on to read Devotion – a memoir (2010).
I seldom read memoirs, it’s not that I actively avoid the genre – it’s just that memoirs seldom appeal to me; it might have to do with my own age? I mean; maybe it gets more and more interesting to read about other peoples lives as one self get more experienced in living? Shapiro’s Devotion might be a sign that I’m ready for it
I really like Dani Shapiro’s narrative voice. I like her way of telling, and also the way she organizes her stories into short chapters. Cutting things up into sharp fragments gives her book a momentum, urgency. Devotion is a personal memoire; it is – at times – very intimate and almost painful to read.
Two themes stand out for me, the first has to do about having a sick child, the other has to do about finding ones own place in the world – both as part of a long family tradition and as an outstanding individual.
For me it’s very easy to identify with Shapiro’s reflections on being the mother of a seriously ill child. I have been (I am) there. Because the thing is, as Shapiro very elegantly shows in Devotion, that the fear of devastation – the angst, the feeling of living on the edge, never really leaves the mother who have once been face to face with utter trauma. One keeps on being in a state of alert – very anxious, very easily alarmed. Too tightly strung.
This shared experience of upheaval might be one of the reasons I share Shapiro’s search for inner tranquillity. Shapiro tries several routes; Buddhism, yoga and going deep into the Jewish tradition.
How to be Jewish is an enormous challenge for Shapiro, it is a challenge I do not share. And at times I have difficulties understanding her need for becoming a part of a tradition from which she seems to be very much estranged. It is incomprehensible. But then again – so many things in our life are – .