Devotion: A Memoir
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Devotion: A Memoir

3.68 of 5 stars 3.68  ·  rating details  ·  1,053 ratings  ·  215 reviews
In her midforties and settled into the responsibilities and routines of adulthood, Dani Shapiro found herself with more questions than answers. Was this all life was—a hodgepodge of errands, dinner dates, e-mails, meetings, to-do lists? What did it all mean?

Having grown up in a deeply religious and traditional family, Shapiro had no personal sense of faith, despite repeate...more
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published January 26th 2010 by Harper
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Marty
This book was great. I thought it was going to be another project-for-a-year-memoir (like Eat, Pray, Love or The Happiness Project), this time about finding spirituality. But it's much better than that - instead of being a formulaic project, it's a book-length meditation on the meaning of life, on joy, on mortality, and on God and faith. It's beautifully written and deeply absorbing.

Early in the book, it's clear that the author is a pretty anxious person:

"Nothing - absolutely nothing I could put...more
Caroline M.
It's not that I can't enjoy a memoir about exploring one's spirituality -- for all its problems, I really kind of enjoyed Eat, Pray, Love, the book with which this one will inevitably be compared. Dani Shapiro's memoir is blessedly shorter, and far less indulgent, and really struck much closer to home. She's a mom, I'm a mom; her father had a deep connection to and daily practice of his faith, just like my dad has. But for all that, and despite some lovely writing in spots, this left me just kin...more
Joan Winnek
My first book by this author, it gripped and enlightened me, and prompted me to order more of her books. A well-written, thoughtful memoir that intricately explores many ambiguities, the book draws from private and particular experiences and circumstances, and doesn't lose its footing as it approaches meaning-of-life issues. It's how we live, explored from the perspective of one woman, and enlightened by her explorations into many traditions and practices.

When I finish a book that particularly m...more
Kristen
I think I came to this book at exactly the right moment. Like Dani Shapiro, I am looking to “opt back in” to a religious - or, at least, a spiritual - identity and want to “form – if not an opinion – a set of feelings and instincts by which to live.” Her struggles toward feeling and defining a presence in her life larger than herself especially resonated with me.

Shapiro presents the book in a series of mini-chapters, which do leap around a bit, but which I think symbolize her search for lessons...more
Sarah Joyce Bryant
I read Devotion in two days/two sittings. The structure of the book – chapters starting right where the last ended – made it difficult to find a place to stop reading and I loved it. Dani Shapiro’s narrative was so personal and spoke to me on such a deep level and that structure gave me permission to keep reading…just one more chapter. What Shapiro wrote about: Is this all there is to life? If so, why do I feel like something’s missing?, and the spiritual quest that she began, is something unive...more
Erika Robuck
“I had begun to feel–and it was a bitter feeling–that the world could be divided into two kinds of people; those with an awareness of life’s inherent fragility and randomness, and those who believed they were exempt…I didn’t know that there was a third way of being…The third way…had to do with holding this paradox lightly in one’s own hands.” (Ch. 57)

Devotion: A Memoir, by Dani Shapiro, was released in January of 2010. This intimate exploration of Shapiro’s spirituality was inspired by her son’s...more
Michelle
I've mentioned this before - and the more I experience the life of a book reviewer/blogger, the more I firmly believe this to be true - books have a way of coming across our path when they are most needed, when they will speak to us the most. Over the past two-plus years, as I have finally started paying attention, I have read many a novel or memoir that resonated with me specifically because they touched on something for which I too was searching. Dani Shapiro's Devotion is yet another example...more
Judith
This year, I am interested in reading books about how people find and/or lose their faith, which brought me to this book about a middle-aged woman's search for her own religious and/or spiritual journey. She had a nice style and a nice story to tell, which is why I kept reading it. But by the time I was finished, I felt like I had spent an afternoon talking to a passenger in the seat beside me on a trip across the country. Entertained but not enlightened. I think maybe I have read enough of thos...more
Barb
I may take a rest from this genre (middle age spiritual quest) for awhile, even though I liked this book very much. Much like "discovering" motherhood in my 20's and 30's, I'm coming head to head with the visceral knowledge of death as a reality, not just some abstract occurrence in the far off future. It's that time of life when the busyness of children and career start to fade; the importance of things seems inconsequential; the body starts its revolt and the essential "aloneness" of life reas...more
Siobhan Fallon
I find myself using Devotion like a book of daily reflections. I like picking it up and reading one of the brief chapters and then pausing and thinking on it. Very meditative and relaxing, though Dani Shaprio writes this the way she writes her fast paced novels: you get caught up in the tension of the first page and keep reading to find out what could possibly happen next to the narrator. But the questions on faith, and what we should pass on to our children in this world of doubt, resonates wit...more
M
I think Dani is just not for me. This obsessive, dark and brooding memoir details, extensively, her confused and confusing thoughts about God and her place in the world which, though a relatable struggle, is simply not all that interesting when it's someone else's. I found this to be repetitive, whiny and irritating. It touched upon a lot of Liz Gilbert's thoughts in EPL, but this one lacked the punch and likability and seemed to instead deliver only the stream of consciousness and me me me -nes...more
Ashleigh Walls
I was really disappointed. After watching Dani Shapiro on the Today show describing her first face-to-face interaction with her yogi ("when the student is ready the teacher appears"), I had high hopes for this book. Instead it was self-serving and whiney the entire way through. Ms. Shapiro's disjointed search to quantify or label her spirituality leaves the reader thinking she is nothing but a spoiled housewife. Nowhere in her story does she practice the true meaning of spirituality -- sharing.
Rebecca Chapa
I read this book on the perfect day. As I was rushing out of the house had to put another (thicker hardcover) book in my suitcase and took this one on the plane. Could not stop reading it. Everything may not happen for a reason, but the collective consciousness urged me to grab this book. I felt resonance with almost everything that Dani said, made me wonder if I may have been Jewish and a mother in another lifetime. I had no idea that the book would touch upon so many issues that I have battled...more
Karyn Hall
Dani Shapiro, on the cusp of Gen X and the baby boomer generation, is entering what Jung called the “afternoon of life,” a time to seek answers and meaning. A blonde New York author on the outside, she carries a melting pot of strong, sometimes contradictory influences within her. Her resulting unique personality is difficult to integrate leading her to constantly feel on the outside.

Her life is marked with the losses that all of us share and hers have hit unexpectedly, in unpredictable ways, s...more
Zohar - ManOfLaBook.com
“Devotion” by Dani Shapiro is a memoir about the authors mid-life crisis and search for spirituality. The book provided a fascinating read into the mind of a woman that, it seemed to me, couldn’t find inner calm if it slapped her in the face.

Evaluating herself as mid-life approaches, author Dani Shapiro feels anxiety over which she has no control. Looking at monumental personal events in her past makes her realize where some of that unease comes from. Dani Shapiro does not consider herself relig...more
thewanderingjew
From the first page, I believed that Dani Shapiro was presenting an honest appraisal of her search for herself and the meaning of her life. As she pretty much bares her soul and her secrets, she seems to be exposing her fears and weaknesses in an effort to face them in the light of day and better deal with them. She worries about things that haven’t happened but devises all sorts of scenarios about what might happen and then spends her time trying to prevent them from happening or prepares for t...more
CoffeeBook Chick
Feb 28, 2011 CoffeeBook Chick rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Anyone searching for their purpose in life
She is an adult, married, with a young son. She is a writer, living in New York, with deadlines and assignments. Her place in life is already carved out and understood.

Right?

For Dani Shapiro, her memoir embraces the fact that she actually doesn't know, but that she is trying - trying so very, very hard - to find out. Most especially, faith becomes the crucial piece that perhaps will help make sense of it all, to calm her anxiety and the fear that something bad could happen at any moment. Faith,...more
pri
May 02, 2010 pri rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2010
i really enjoyed this memoir (and i did not like eat, pray, love - which i think it is compared to a bit). i found her exploration of ritual, prayer, meditation as both ancestral and as comforting moving. her memories of her father and his daily prayer ritual, her own experiences meditating, meetings at AA, trying to find the right
synagogue to join, a certain set of lullabies sung to her son when he was ill. it wasn't quite said - but the prayers, the rituals, the meditations brought their own...more
Megan
i was curious to read a memoir about someone's search for spirituality since i'm doing that search, too. but ultimately, any time i read this kind of memoir, i'm trying to determine if i can trust the author and the conclusions she comes to as i go along. i was reassured that shapiro hates platitudes like "god doesn't give us more than we can handle" and "everything happens for a reason," but in the end i wasn't convinced by her conclusion that there is some sort of animating consciousness in th...more
Rhonda Rae Baker
Life has a way of unraveling us if we let it yet inner strength helps us weave back in what is important to us as individuals. I was expecting to find greater insight within the pages of this memoir but what I found was encouragement to keep on keeping on.

Dani didn’t share any profound wisdom for me yet her path gave me light at the end of my own tunnel. I understood her hyper-vigilance and search for meaning in all the chaos coupled with the fear of losing something important along the way. But...more
Kasey Jueds
I loved, loved, loved this book. Which surprised me, because I wasn't particularly into the Dani Shapiro novel I tried to read. Maybe I didn't try hard enough. Because this book is beautifully written and very, very moving. It isn't really specifically about Buddhism, though it's one tradition Shapiro investigates in her effort to (for lack of better words) get more spiritual (she also explores yoga and Judaism, which is her family tradition). I'm making the book sound silly and lightweight, whi...more
Beth
Shapiro qoutes Carl Jung on pg 182
“Thoroghly unprepared, we take the step into the afternoon of life; worst still, we take this step with the false assumptions that our truths and ideals will serve us as before. But we cannot live the afternoons of life according to the programme of life’s morning – for what was great in the morning will be little in the evening, and what in the morning was true will in the evening have become a lie.”

Shapiro qoutes Carl Jung on pg 182

May I be safe
May I be happy
M...more
Clementine
I bought this book because I'd heard Dani Shapiro's name tossed around at a gathering of a whole lot of writers I respect. From the first scene I was in love. The language is perfect. Dare I say, delicious? But I had expected that. What I hadn't expected was insight into my own exploration of spirituality. Just before I finished Devotion I had a day that turned out to be the absolute antithesis of what I'd wanted and expected. As I started to melt down I thought of Dani Shapiro and her teachers....more
Susan Storz
As I get older, I am trying to find ways to become satisfied with who I am, and if I am not satisfied, to change. I was looking to this book to portray another 40-something woman, trying to come to terms with who she is. Unfortunately, it didn't really ring true to me. I agree with another reviewer, who stated that if you weren't Jewish or knew of the Jewish customs, you were kind of left in the dark. So I felt like I missed out on a lot of the book, not understanding where she came from or wher...more
Mike
I love her narrative voice and her outlook on life. Her prose sometimes sizzles poetically.
I love how well-read she is, and how she leavens her text with aptly-chosen echoes & resonances from other wise writers and fellow-seekers.

Shapiro's spiritual journey is an interesting, unique, authentic one.
I think she identifies as very much of a Jew-Bu(ddhist), as do I (although I'm not sure how to spell it!).

Due to the trials and tribulations she's endured, her sensibility is often dark.
But she has...more
Susan
In this memoir, the author recounts her efforts to find spiritual meaning in her life while weaving the stories of her past and present experiences along the way. She explores the spiritual aspects of yoga alot, as well as Judaism. It was interesting, but at some point I did grow weary of it (the same questions and answers, over and over.) Still, I enjoyed having a look into the life of a contemporary writer (she's had and has an interesting life), her thought processes, and how she has come to...more
Laila
Mar 01, 2010 Laila rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: seekers, writers
A beautiful, inspiring memoir. Shapiro struggles to balance the goodness and richness in her life with a constant anxiety. She delves into troubled family relationships and her desire to connect her Orthodox Jewish heritage to her budding Buddhist yoga and mediation practice. This is a hard book to describe - she's basically trying to figure out the meaning of life! (Aren't we all?) But I came away from this book energized, deeply moved, and comforted. At times I felt like I was reading my own t...more
Laura Harrington
Dani Shapiro tackles the big questions of how to live our lives, what is faith, and whether we can hunger for spirituality and have an independent mind all at the same time.
I couldn't put this book down and immediately put it into the hands of a very good friend who has suffered too much tragedy.
What I most appreciate about this book is that it is subtle and honest and true. In a world where there is so much black and white thinking, Dani Shapiro has written a book which wisely celebrates the a...more
Kandice
This was much sadder than I was expecting. During the years covered, the author went through a threatening illness with her baby and had her mother die. Her seach during these years was to find out what she believed about God, and what she still valued of her religious upbringing. It was a good book; however, it concluded pretty much where it started - with the author still searching for what she believes. (A decent read, but don't expect to get any answers here from what the author went through...more
Fred Daly
Normally not the sort of book I'd choose, my independent study kid wanted to read it. It's non-fiction, about a novelist's mid-life search for spiritual meaning. She looks into her own Orthodox Jewish roots, explores yoga and Buddhism, reflects on the disasters and near-disasters in her life, and concludes that we have to search for meaning, but we don't have to find the answers all in one place. (Her husband and son are Red Sox fans, but it never seems to occur to her that everything she is loo...more
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Dani Shapiro is the author of five novels and the best-selling memoir Slow Motion. She has also written for magazines such as The New Yorker and Elle.

She lives with her husband and young son in Litchfield County, Connecticut.
More about Dani Shapiro...
Family History Black & White Slow Motion Still Writing: The Perils and Pleasures of a Creative Life Picturing the Wreck

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“It wasn't getting easier because it isn't supposed to get easier. Midlife was a bitch, and my educated guess was that the climb only got steeper from here. Carl Jung put it perfectly: "Thoroughly unprepared we take the step into the afternoon of life," he wrote. "Worse still, we take this step with the false assumption that our truths and ideals will serve us as hitherto. But we cannot live the afternoon of life according to the program of life's morning; for what was great in the morning will be little at evening, and what in the morning was true will by evening have become a lie."
... I was writing a new program for the afternoon of life. The scales tipped away from suffering and toward openheartedness and love. [p. 182]”
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“This sadness wasn't a huge part of me--I wasn't remotely depressed--but still, it was like a stone I carried in my pocket. I always knew it was there. [p. 179]” 10 likes
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