Searching for meaning in life

About "Devotion: A Memoir:"

Growing up in a deeply religious family, Dani Shapiro felt no real connection to any personal sense of faith. Her parents followed traditions in lieu of subscribing to beliefs. Like many people, she has spent much of her life trying to create a sense of belonging to something larger than herself.

Now, as she enters her forties and settles into being a wife, a mother, a daughter no more, Dani finds herself coming of age again, as we all truly must. "Devotion: A Memoir" is a reckoning of all of the choices she has made, all of the things that she has learned.

It chronicles her journey as she searches for meaning in a constantly changing world, and seeks to quell the anxiety at the core of her modern, fast-paced life-the anxiety that wakes her, again and again, in the middle of the night.

At the heart of this anxiety, she realized, was a single question: What did she believe? Was life just a random jumble of one thing after the next, with no wisdom, no order, no plan? Was it all just truly chaos-and if it was, then how was she supposed to live with that?

As she writes so evocatively of her mindset, "It wasn't so much that I was in search of answers. In fact, I was wary of the whole idea of answers. I wanted to climb all the way inside the questions-past my tremendous resistance-and see what was there."

She understood from the start that hers would be a voyage, in the words of Henry Miller, that took place without leaving the spot.

She wasn't Thoreau, setting out to live in isolation, or a Buddhist monk. No-she was a wife and mother living in Connecticut, a working woman who did too much online shopping and enjoyed throwing a good dinner party.

Everything she needed, she sensed, was right in front of her. She only had to find the courage and steadiness to look: at the lessons of the teachers she sought out; at the accident that destroyed her parents' lives and saved hers; at the miraculous recovery of her young son from a rare seizure disorder when he was an infant; and at the possibility of venturing, as an explorer, into the depths of every single day.

The two years Dani spent working on "Devotion" have been life changing. The changes-as in all true transformations-have not been dramatic. The revelatory moments have been nearly invisible, forming a sort of path through her own internal wilderness. This book is that path, a beautiful, moving, ultimately joyful, literary excavation of a life in 102 pieces.

>> Devotion: A Memoir

About Dani Shapiro:

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, Bookforum, and O: The Oprah Magazine among other publications. She lives with her husband and son in Connecticut.

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