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Devotion: A Memoir Paperback – February 8, 2011

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P.S. paperback editions include added content such as author interviews and bios, additional stories or essays, and much, much more. Check out what's inside this edition of Devotion [PDF].

Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; Reprint edition (February 8, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061628352
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061628351
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (85 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #81,603 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Shapiro's newest memoir, a mid-life exploration of spirituality begins with her son's difficult questions-about God, mortality and the afterlife-and Shapiro's realization that her answers are lacking, long-avoided in favor of everyday concerns. Determined to find a more satisfying set of answers, author Shapiro (Slow Motion) seeks out the help of a yogi, a Buddhist and a rabbi, and comes away with, if not the answers to life and what comes after, an insightful and penetrating memoir that readers will instantly identify with. Shapiro's ambivalent relationship with her family, her Jewish heritage and her secularity are as universal as they are personal, and she exposes familiar but hard-to-discuss doubts to real effect: she's neither showboating nor seeking pat answers, but using honest self-reflection to provoke herself and her readers into taking stock of their own spiritual inventory. Absorbing, intimate, direct and profound, Shapiro's memoir is a satisfying journey that will touch fans and win her plenty of new ones. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

Approaching her mid-forties, novelist Shapiro (Black and White, 2007) finds her life dominated by a seemingly unending list of to-do’s and a constant feeling of anxiety over which she has no control. Much of her unease comes from the effort to make sense of certain events in her past—including her father’s death and a frightening health condition that affected her infant son—along with struggling to understand the turmoil that defined her relationship with her mother. While her childhood had been infused with religious tradition, Shapiro doesn’t consider herself a believer or a nonbeliever. Yet, she is pulled to understand and deepen her own personal sense of faith as a means to calm the deep-rooted uncertainty and chaos of everyday life. In doing so, she seeks out a variety of different experiences and practices, such as yoga and silent meditation retreats, along with visits to the local synagogue and her Orthodox Jewish relatives. Shapiro’s journey is a deeply reflective one, and her struggles are as complex as they are insightful, philosophical, and universally human. --Leah Strauss --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

More About the Author

Dani Shapiro's most recent books include the novels Black & White and Family History and the bestselling memoir Slow Motion. Her short stories and essays have appeared in the New Yorker, Granta, Tin House, Elle, Vogue, Ploughshares, and O, The Oprah Magazine, among other publications. She lives with her husband and son in Litchfield County, Connecticut.

Customer Reviews

The book consists of over one hundred short chapters, and is a quick read.
Alla S.
We will certainly get clarity on some things, we'll lose our attachment to others, however it goes we will most likely have more questions than answers at every point.
So much of this book resonated with my own search, including learning from many different religions.
Amazon Customer

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

83 of 88 people found the following review helpful By TC on January 29, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I started this book a little skeptical. It seems recently, i have read memoirs of many different people and in the end, they were much the same and often pretty shallow for my liking. I sat with my highlighter and post it stickies and marked the first thing i found interesting on page 15. Not too bad. Then, the next on 54, then 86. Hmm, I was becoming more skeptical--86 pages and "only" 3 significant things to me.

I say "only" because how do you really judge--what if there was only 1 thing--and yet that thing was life changing. Or maybe not life changing, but allowed you to see things in a new light--is that worth $25.00 and a few hours of my time? Yes, usually--and I guess I want more--I didn't want just 3 things in 86 pages. I wanted soul stirring. I wanted awakening. I wanted to be moved.

And I got what I wanted. I quickly started underlining and marking more things. The book seemed to get deeper and deeper and took me right along with it--which I happily went. I am ready for change. I am ready for shifts. I am ready to face things I have avoided. And Dani Shapiro helped me do that. Grappling with those hard questions---somehow writing things I have wondered about or considered for years--and didn't fully articulate to myself.

This book is a gift to me. A gift to my soul. As I read it, it became meditative and sort of a contradiction in that it stirred up so many emotions, so many longings, so many questions, and at the same time delivered me to a place of peace and silence and contemplation and stillness.

I had not known any of the writings of this author prior to reading this book. I didn't even know she was an author until I read it in the book. I received this book through the Amazon Vine program.
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Format: Hardcover
At first blush, Orthodox Judaism, Hindu yoga and Buddhist meditation have little in common. But all three use ritual as a way to order time and space and to explore one's connection to the sacred. In her new memoir, DEVOTION, Dani Shapiro reflects on the role of ritual and religion in her life as she comes to terms with parenthood, middle age, the loss of her own parents and life's anxieties, as well as its potential for peace.

Raised as an Orthodox Jew (whose relatives fell mostly to the "black hat" end of the spectrum), Shapiro felt that little tied her to the Judaism of her youth. She was drawn instead to yoga and meditation, and the myths and rituals of Alcoholics Anonymous. But in her early 40s, watching her son grow up and still mourning the loss of her parents years earlier, she began to drift back toward the familiar rites of Judaism.

For Shapiro, these rituals and chants, prayers and observances are not about religion per se; she is not overly interested in membership or even the notion of God. What she is seeking is a solace and comfort in the midst of uncertainties of day-to-day life, and she hopes to find some in acts of devotion. She refuses to simply accept the rituals and instead examines them for meaning and for how they may fit in her own life. She surrounds herself with teachers who explain that though the answers may not be out there, asking the questions is an important spiritual practice as well.

Shapiro's memoir is especially poignant and insightful as she navigates the tricky waters between religion and spirituality. She identifies as a Jew, but her relationship to Judaism generally and to her own family in particular is fraught with doubt, frustration and disbelief.
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Format: Hardcover
When we meet Elizabeth Gilbert on the first page of Eat, Pray, Love, it's three in the morning, and she's on the bathroom floor of her country house, sobbing. And not for any obvious reason. Career, marriage, health --- she's got it all.

When we meet Dani Shapiro on the first page of Devotion, she's been "waking up in a cold sweat nearly every night, my heart pounding. I paced my house, worried about ...well, about everything."

Like some of you, I am sick to death of the marketing of Elizabeth Gilbert. And, like many of you, I often find myself waking up in the middle of the night, terrified for my child, our country, our planet. So after a page of Dani Shapiro's book, I don't think you can fault my lack of sympathy for this happily married mother with seven books to her credit.

Okay, lady, I think, what's your problem?

Dani Shapiro reveals her issue as a story.

She's doing "Master Level Energy Work" with a woman named Sandra when Sandra asks, "Are you feeling...pushed?"

Just so. "I often felt a sense of tremendous urgency, as if there was a whip at my back. I was fleeing something --- but what?"

"It's your father," Sandra says. "Your father apologizes."

What's happening here defies everything Dani believes, "but I had entered a place beyond belief."

So Dani tells Sandra about her father, who died when she was young: "Everything I am --- everything I've become since that day --- is because of him. Because I had to make his death mean something."

"Your father is asking if you want him to stay," Sandra says.

"Yes," Dani says, weeping.
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