Friday, February 25, 2011

Review and Giveaway: Devotion by Dani Shapiro

Devotion: A MemoirDevotion: A Memoir by Dani Shapiro is a memoir by a wife and mother who begins to wonder (well, really knows) that there must be more to life than an endless routine of errands and responsibilities and endeavors to try to find more meaning in life.  Having grown up in a religious Jewish family, Shapiro struggles to reconcile the traditions of her father's Judaism with what she really believes and what will bring her purpose and comfort in her busy life.  Dedicated to the goal of gaining this understanding, Dani explores her own history with religion, the practice of yoga, buddhism - searching for that kernel that will resonate and make sense of it all.  She tells the story of this journey beautifully but also with some well-placed humor and self-deprecation which makes the book so readable and satisfying at the same time.

A book about religion and finding spiritual meaning?  This really could have gone either way and although I had been interested in the book since it first came out in hardcover, I opened it with a little trepidation prepared to perhaps be turned off by a spiritual journey I couldn't understand or too much abstract exploration of meaning.  When I read the following quote within the first 20 pages of the book and found myself utterly able to relate, I knew I had nothing to worry about:
I was always compiling lists in my mind: what had gone wrong, what could go wrong.  I hadn't figured out how to live with my heightened awareness of exactly how fragile it all is. And so the lists grew and grew.  I was trying to control the universe - and it's hard work to try and control the universe.  I thought that by naming every potential disaster, I could prevent it. 
 Ah - someone put to words what I struggled with myself for as long as I can remember.  From that point on, I was hooked and literally devoured this book.  I found myself getting through it so quickly because I just wanted to read more and more but also needing to remind myself to slow down and really let it settle in.  My copy of the book is completely dog-eared - I seemed to find passages every few pages that I wanted to hold on to because they articulated my own experience in a way I never could.

A memoir's success really lies in the author's ability to connect to readers with their own story.  Shapiro does that with grace and ease.  On the surface, I have little in common with the author.  She is a mother and wife living in the country; she was raised in a Orthodox Judaism; she lost her father in a tragic accident and had a painfully difficult relationship with her mother.  I am single, childless, living in a city; I was raised in the Catholic Church; both of my parents are alive and well and, although I do battle with them from time to time,  our relationship is pretty good.  Despite all these differences, I understood her journey and saw parallels in my own life.  Shapiro's struggle to find faith and meaning is truly universal and she writes about it in such an accessible way that a reader can easily connect with the story. 

Ok, by this point in the review, it is clear I LOVED this book and I urge you to get it and read it.  For other perspectives on the book, you can check this link for the list of blogs on the tour - there are many excellent reviews there (some may also be more balanced than mine!)  I tried to see the author at a speaking engagement in NYC but was not able to make it but for those of you in a book club,  Dani is very willing to speak with book clubs (via Skype) - I think this book would spark a lot of interesting discussion. 

I want to share this book - I have already bought copies for friends and started handing them out!  My copy will remain on the shelf with all it's dog-eared pages so I can go back to it but I have also bought 2 copies to give away to readers of my blog.  Just leave a comment below with a way to contact you and I will select winners on Wed, March 2nd.  The contest is open internationally (I will ship the book via the Book Depository)

Thank you to Trish at TLC Book Tours  for introducing me to this book and providing a copy for review!


  1. I like reading books with religious themes and this one sounds really intriguing! Also, thanks for making the giveaway international!!

    danaan at gmx dot at

  2. Sounds really interesting!

    megan.nobert at

  3. This sounds great! Thanks for the giveaway! hnwhitlock2000at gmail dot com

  4. WOW! I love books like this, books that give words to thoughts and feelings we've had for a long time. So glad you loved it! Thanks for being on the tour!

  5. wow..i really want to read this book

  6. As someone who is constantly searching for meaning in life, this sounds interesting. I'd love to win a copy!

  7. You make the book sounds interesting but I remain unsure if I would like it or not.

    I suppose the onlyway to find out would be to read it !

    So please enter me in the giveaway.

    Thank you.

    Carol T

    buddytho {at} gmail DOT com

  8. Based on your review, I'm so ready to read this book (or check it out of the library). I think I will relate to the author on some levels so I'm intrigued to read her story. Thanks for hosting.
    mistyfuji *at* yahoo *dot* com

  9. Wow this book does sound really fabulous! I agree with you - with that spirituality angle it could have really gone either way but it sounds like it ended up being fabulous so thank you for offering a fab giveaway as a result!

  10. Sounds great! I love finding books that articulate experiences better than I have been able to do it. It feels comforting, like we're really not alone.

  11. Glad I found my way to this review via your Sunday Salon post (being, as ever, totally behind on my feed reader), since you've talked this book right onto my wish list. I'd love to throw my name in for the giveaway, too. Thanks!

    toadacious1 at yahoo dot com

  12. This was a fabulous book and I loved it also - it just put a lot of things into perspective, and it's really nice and comforting to know that I'm not the only one trying to figure it all out! :)

  13. This book sound interesting. I hope I win this giveaway contest ahah ( ;


  14. Wonderful review, I'm glad you enjoyed the book more than I did. It's great that you loved it so much you bought copies to share, that's fantastic.

    No need to enter me in the contest.

  15. Oh my goodness, that quote is me! I've seen this one and kind of felt the same way about it that you did at the beginning. Sounds like I need to give it a shot.