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Devotion: A Memoir by Dani Shapiro (with book club notes)

28 Sep

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Dani Shapiro did an amazing job of capturing the middle-aged angst of a woman trying to figure out who she is, and that’s something I can really identify with.

For her, the search is manifested in looking for a religious and spiritual path. She isn’t comfortable with her father’s Orthodox Jewish history, but neither does she wish to leave Judaism entirely. She also looks into other traditions, finding mentors and gurus to guide her.

Ultimately, her journey was a solo one, even though the question of what she would teach her son was part of the reason she was searching. Her husband was not part of her journey, he was a surprisingly small portion of this book that went so deeply into the history of their marriage, the frighteningly serious illness of their son as a small baby, and their unsuccessful attempts to have another child.

Her parents play a larger role, but only in her looking back at her relationship with them. She seems a highly unreliable narrator when speaking of her dealing with her mother, but it is very clear this was a troubled relationship going back many years before her mother’s death.

The details of her journey have absolutely nothing in common with my path. Nonetheless, I identified strongly with her sense of searching, and with the loneliness of her journey. I don’t know that she has succeeded in her quest, but her movement along the way was inspirational to me.

Book Club Notes

I’m the one that suggested Devotion to the group, and we did vote it in, although it wasn’t a top vote getter.  Still, I was surprised that more than one person I expected to be intrigued by it admitted they’d dreaded reading it.

Luckily, the book won them over.  I think in the end, everyone appreciated the book, and there is only one person that may not have liked and enjoyed it.

We had a great discussion about her journey as compared to our own, about the parts of her story that the author chose to tell in this book, and about how her decisions did and didn’t make sense at times.  We all agreed we’d be interested in reading another book by her, possibly one of her novels.

I’d strongly recommend this book to book clubs of women of an age to be making this journey, who are willing to discuss their personal path a well as that taken in the book being discussed.  Other clubs may appreciate it as well.

I received this book for review from the publisher.  As soon as I heard about it, I knew I wanted to suggest it for my book club, so I delayed reading it until my group could do so as well.  Thank you, Harper Collins.

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5 Comments

Posted by on September 28, 2011 in Book Club, books, L, reviews

 

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5 responses to “Devotion: A Memoir by Dani Shapiro (with book club notes)

  1. Marce

    September 28, 2011 at 9:54 am

    Overall sounds like a great book club read. I like that you was able to still enjoy it even with different views or paths….

     
  2. nomadreader

    September 28, 2011 at 10:33 am

    I really enjoyed this book when I read it earlier in the year, and I wish I could have read it with a group of women. It makes such a great pick. I’m glad to hear most enjoyed it!

     
  3. Vasilly

    October 1, 2011 at 10:08 am

    This sounds like a really interesting book. I’ve seen it around a few times but was unsure if it’s for me. It sounds like it is. Great post.

     
  4. booksnyc

    October 15, 2011 at 11:11 pm

    I LOVED this book. I had so many pages flagged by the time I finished the book – I really felt like it spoke to me. I even bought copies for some close friends and am looking forward to hearing what they think.

    I can see why members of the book club would be apprehensive- religion is a difficult topic. But this book is about much more than that – I am glad to hear the bookclub enjoyed it!

     

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