Inheritance: A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity, and Love

Inheritance: A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity, and Love by Dani Shapiro

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


While this is definitely a good book and worth reading, I can never tell with these highly personal memoirs if the writer is as fraught as she seems on the page, or if in the service of good storytelling we are only seeing the fraught moments. This story carries the reader from one fraught moment to another, and the character comes across in a more dramatic way than she may actually be if you encountered them in daily life. I asked myself this question often while reading Inheritance, sometimes metaphorically slapping my forehead (“Oh come on, Dani. Get a grip.”), while generally accepting both the personal and rhetorical nature of the question she was asking. Its not that the book doesn’t feel truthful, it is an honest, thoughtful and revealing story, but more that the quality of the self-interrogation at time seemed forced. Shapiro seems like a very grounded person (if a trifle obsessive), secure in her adult life, and it was hard to accept the loop she was being thrown for here, particularly as it had been a theme throughout her life. In her defense, she had a well-constructed self, and the swirl of action surrounding the discovery of her paternity forced her to view her childhood wounds in a new and unexpected way. I guess it goes to show that life is a constant process of discovery; it is the moments you think you have it figured out that are the most dangerous. I’m left with a question regarding her current relationship to Judaism, but I would suspect that one of her prior memoirs charts that out in the powerful, literate way this one does her paternity–honest, revealing, well-written, erudite, and somewhat fraught. I look forward to reading it.



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