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Inheritance: A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity, and Love

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3.97  ·  Rating details ·  19,817 ratings  ·  2,887 reviews
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER 

“A gripping genetic detective story, and a meditation on the meaning of parenthood and family.” —Jennifer Egan, author of Manhattan Beach 

 
From the acclaimed, best-selling memoirist and novelist—“a writer of rare talent” (Cheryl Strayed)—a memoir about the staggering family secret uncovered by a genealogy test: an exploration of the urgent ethical quesof Manhattan
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Kindle Edition, 250 pages
Published January 15th 2019 by Knopf
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Nina It’s my understanding that yes, she did change names and that also she had been very clear all along and her correspondence with him that she would…moreIt’s my understanding that yes, she did change names and that also she had been very clear all along and her correspondence with him that she would probably write about the experience one day.(less)
This question contains spoilers… (view spoiler)
Margie Yes, but I think she had access to people and records that the average person would not.

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Average rating 3.97  · 
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 ·  19,817 ratings  ·  2,887 reviews


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Elyse (retired from reviewing/semi hiatus) Walters
Audiobook.... read by Dani
Shapiro!

I love her!
I love her!!!!!
I *love* Dani Shapiro!!!!!

I really ‘could’ listen to Dani read the phone book!!!

Keeping with tradition... having listened to Dani read her books before - I made sure to ( again) soak in our warm pool - for hours -fingers getting pruney - while soaking in *Dani*!

At least when I cried ( 3 different times) - I was already wet! Two scenes hit my emotions deeply.
One when Dani was talki
...more
Diane S ☔
Feb 22, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 5000-2019, lor-2019
You're 54 years old, always felt like the odd duck in your Jewish family, blond, blue eyed, pale, but you were not prepared for the results of your genealogical testing. Although you often felt like you didn't belong, you knew who you belonged to, who your parents were, but you never expected what came in that little envelope. Your father, not your father, and although both your parents are no longer alive, you want and need answers. Who are you really, Dani Shapiro?

A rerrifically, h
...more
Brandice
Feb 13, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Inheritance: A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity, and Love is Dani Shapiro’s story of discovering at the age 54, through a simple DNA test, that her dad is not in fact her biological father - Something that was never known to her.

I cannot imagine learning of this type of news, though I know Shapiro is not alone in this discovery. Her dad is no longer alive and she admits she never had a close relationship with her mother, who unfortunately isn’t alive either, thus eliminating the possibility for discu
...more
Jess
Feb 17, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I thought this would be an interesting book similar to Carolyn Abraham’s The Juggler’s Children. Unfortunately, I was mistaken.

Shapiro mentions her role as writer again and again as well as her desire to make sense of her life. While memoir is an inherently self-indulgent genre, I find Shapiro's unwillingness to examine her privilege very troubling. She has immediate access to information, many friends and colleagues with which to process news, and yet the first hundred pages of this book are f
...more
Edith
Jan 15, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir, autobiography
2 1/2 stars. Dani Shapiro unexpectedly learns, at the age of 54, as a result of a DNA test, that the man she knew as her father was not biologically related to her. She and her husband very quickly figure out (not a spoiler) that her mother became pregnant as a result of donor sperm. The memoir continues to follow her search into the circumstances of her birth.

While I empathize with the tremendous emotional upheaval this discovery caused the author--a not entirely different situation
...more
Jana
Jan 18, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audible, non-fiction
Wow. I don’t usually read a book this fast. I listened to this one on audible, excellently narrated by the author.

I love her writing. This is only the second book I’ve read by her, but her writing is flawless. She makes it seem so easy, and I mean this as high praise.

I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that the book is about her unexpected DNA results. It is in the description and the title.

I really tried to put myself in her shoes. I know I would be shocked to find out my father w
...more
Brina
Jul 31, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Infertility. A subject that is taboo in orthodox circles but has become less so in recent years with non-profit groups devoted to helping childless couples have blossomed in recent years. Dani Shapiro was born in 1963 to previously childless couple Paul and Irene Shapiro. Paul had a daughter from a previous marriage but Irene had no children of her own and was approaching forty years old. How they wanted a child, an especially delicate subject in a community where families have four, six, and as ...more
Marialyce
Most of us think we know about those in our family who came before us. There may be an occasional surprise, but on the whole we are pretty confident who our parents are. Imagine if you found out that what you thought all along was not true. Would your world be rocked and those things you thought were so ingrained in yourself, be shaken?

For Dani Shapiro life was good. She had a successful career, a loving husband, a solid belief in her Jewishness, and a son who at the age of seventeen
...more
Michael
Nov 27, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018
My full review can be found on BookBrowse.

A compelling exploration of paternity, identity, and belonging, Inheritance centers on a shocking discovery about the author's ancestry. In early 2016, after submitting her DNA for analysis through Ancestry.com on a whim, Dani Shapiro found out that she is not in fact biologically related to her deceased father, an Ashkenazi Jew. The acclaimed memoirist has spent her career writing about family history and Jewish culture, and Inheritance recounts the turmoil she experienced ove
...more
Julie Ehlers
But here I was. An inconvenient truth that had indeed been born from his own body.... My very existence was due to the fact that he never dreamt he'd have to deal with such a thing.

As the book description and flap copy will tell you, Inheritance is about the time respected writer Dani Shapiro took a DNA test as a lark and, from its results, learned that her father was not actually her biological father. This, of course, raised a number of questions: (1) How could this be? (2) What did her (now long-dead
...more
Diane
Jul 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoirs
This is the best memoir I've read this year. In the very first chapter, Dani Shapiro receives her DNA results and learns that her father was not her biological father.

And down the rabbit hole she goes, searching for the truth. This was a bit tricky because both of her parents had passed, but Dani had help solving the mystery from her husband, who was a skilled researcher, and some other friends who had experience finding genealogical answers.

Dani does eventually learn how she was co
...more
Carol
My sincere thanks to Author Dani Shapiro, Edelwiess, and Random House Publishing for providing this e-galley in exchange for my honest review. Inheritance: A Memoir of Geneaolgy, Paternity and Love was published January 15, 2019.

Dani Shapiro's memoir first caught my eye as she is a Connecticut author, my home-state. I have had my DNA tested and am doing genealogy so the subject is forefront in my mind.

DNA – it's all the news these days. Advertisements, articles, television series; it's
...more
JanB

Many people participate in DNA testing as a lark, never anticipating the results will rock them to their core and make them question their entire life. This is what happened to the author when she finds out that her Orthodox Jewish father was not her biological father, and the ancestors and relatives who gave her such a strong sense of family and identity were not her blood relatives.

The author beautifully articulates her inner struggles with identity and what her parents, the ones w
...more
Zennifer
Feb 08, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Self-absorbed, white privileged author who is blissfully unaware of the real challenges of life as she ridiculously overreacts to genetic test results.
Daniel Myers
I knew this wasn't really the book for me when I started just skimming at only about 15% in. I probably would have abandoned it entirely if not for how short it is.

The main problem with this book is that the author comes off as just so unlikeable. The way in which she writes about her sudden realization just smacks of self-centeredness and privilege.

If I hadn’t been driving, I would have closed my eyes. You want the story of your conception to be at the very least corporeal. A man and a woman,
...more
Beth
Feb 17, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Meh, not for me. Well written, but I found the self -agonizing to be annoying.
Rebecca
Dani Shapiro was used to strangers’ comments about her blond hair and blue eyes. How could it be that she was raised an Orthodox Jew? people wondered. It never occurred to her that there was any truth to these hurtful jokes. On a whim, in her fifties, she joined her husband in sending off a DNA test kit. It came back with alarming results: she was only half Ashkenazi Jew, and she and her father’s daughter from a previous marriage were unrelated. A vague memory of her mother jesting about her onl ...more
Jennifer Blankfein
Follow Book Nation by Jen for reviews and recommendations.

Do you really know the story of your life? Author Dani Shapiro thought she did; the daughter of a Jewish mother and an Orthodox Jewish father, Dani grew up surrounded by, and enmeshed in Judaism, Hebrew, traditions and rituals. She had a deep love and admiration for her ancestors who came before her and she drew strength from just knowing about them. In Inheritance: A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity and Love, Dani shares with
...more
Lisa
Sep 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This lovely, heart-piercing memoir ends with the Hebrew word Hineni. "I am here." For me, that sums up this wonderful book. Shapiro's quest to find out about herself kept me spellbound. I loved this book.
Kimberly Dawn
Jul 30, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Canadian
May 04, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Canadian by: Kathy
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Julie Christine
All my life I had known there was a secret. What I hadn't known: the secret was me.

Dani Shapiro was raised an only child in an Orthodox Jewish home by a beloved, doting father and a difficult, distant mother. Blonde and blue-eyed, Dani doesn't resemble anyone in her Ashkenazi family or even her New Jersey neighborhood, yet her Jewish identity is her touchstone. It gives her a sense of belonging in a world with which she has always felt out of step. When Dani was a little girl a family frie
...more
Krista
Feb 21, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Their trauma became mine – had always been mine. It was my inheritance, my lot. My parents' tortured pact of secrecy was as much a part of me as the genes that had been passed down.

As ought to flit through anyone's mind who sends away a DNA test “for fun”, when Dani Shapiro got her results back, she learned that her father – the man she had lost in a car accident thirty years earlier but who had remained the touchstone of her identity throughout her life – turned out not to be genetically related t
...more
Jeannie
Apr 01, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I can't imagine how I would feel after getting the results from Ancestry.com and realizing I am not related to my father. That is what happened to Dani Shapiro. She remembers looking in the mirror as a child and trying to figure out who she is, she doesn't look like any of her relatives. All kinds of memories from her past started taking over her thoughts after she received the results. Her father was Jewish. She had been told by a relative "you aren't Jewish". Dani Shapiro's father is deceased ...more
Celia
Dani Shapiro is a well-known memoirist and has written some fiction as well.

This, her memoir Inheritance, chronicles her actions and feelings after she had her DNA tested in 2004. I can only imagine how she felt when she found out her Jewish father was not her genetic father and that his first daughter, her half-sister, was no relation at all.

She was able to track down her genetic father, pseudonymously named Ben Walden, because the site from which she received her DNA in
...more
Natasha Niezgoda
Aug 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
This was wild!

Okay so here's the deal - I AM OBSESSED WITH GENEALOGY! I have been personally putting my family tree together on Ancestry.com for the last 4 years and it's fascinating. BUT NEVER ONCE did I think I would find such a scandalous surprise as Dani Shapiro did. HOLY FREAKING CRAP!

To find out that your father isn't your biological father through the mere curiosity of a DNA test is HORRIFIC! But then to share such a personal story if incredibly courageous.

I viscerally f
...more
Amena Ahmad
Feb 25, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: half-read
I feel compelled to warn others NOT to waste their time or money on this book. An extremely self-centered, whiney, overly dramatic memoir of a white privileged author. I was attempting to read it for a book club, but half way through, I had to abandon it. I honestly could not take anymore of the superficial tragedy the author thought she went through. The book screams how out of touch Shapiro is with real life challenges. A few hundred pages of overreacting to genetic testing. The woman was conc ...more
Sharon Hart-Green
I am a great admirer of Dani Shapiro's writing, and this book did not disappoint. It is a beautifully told memoir that explores the true meaning of parenthood. Highly recommended!
Candie
Jul 03, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
DNF. I'm definitely in the minority when it comes to this book. I have heard good things about it but unfortunately it just wasn't for me. I read to 52% but I just could not get into it at all. There were some interesting insights into the subjectivity of our life experiences and the topic itself of DNA testing is interesting but the actual writing style and the author's reactions just didn't resonate with me. I just couldn't connect to her. I had a similar experience to the author, not through ...more
Jerrie (redwritinghood)
The author is in her 50s when she finds out that her father is not her biological father. Due to her religious upbringing and strong family background, this throws her whole identity out of focus. Fascinating look at how the fertility industry operated in its early days and the challenges from the current trend of genetic testing. Wonderfully introspective account of how the author came to understand and accept her parents actions.
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Dani Shapiro is the bestselling author of the memoirs Hourglass, Still Writing, Devotion, and Slow Motion, and five novels including Black & White and Family History. She lives with her family in LItchfield County, Connecticut. Her latest memoir, Inheritance, will be published by Knopf in January, 2019.
“To be fully alive, fully human, and completely awake is to be continually thrown out of the nest. To live fully is to be always in no-man’s-land.” 9 likes
“After listening to my entire story, he quietly said: "You can say, "This is impossible, terrible.' Or you can say, 'This is beautiful, wonderful.' You can imagine that you're in exile. Or you can imagine that you have more than one home.” 7 likes
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