Julie Christine's Reviews > Hourglass: Time, Memory, Marriage

Hourglass by Dani Shapiro
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it was amazing
bookshelves: best-of-2017, bio-autobio-memoir, read-2017, writing-companions

Once begun, impossible to set aside. This delicate, graceful meditation on marriage is slim enough to read in one sitting, but it is Dani Shapiro's words and music that held me fast.

She writes of the small cracks that appear with time in even the strongest of relationships; the inevitability of disappointment, even as you can't imagine your life without the other. This memoir is an ode to the glory and madness of joining your life to another's. It is raw and sweet, tender, and rich with truth.

Shapiro is blunt when revealing what it means to make a living as an artist. She and her husband, M., a journalist and filmmaker, seem to have achieved remarkable success. He works with major Hollywood studios and A-list actors. She's an Oprah-endorsed bestselling author, leading writing workshops around the world. Both are outrageously attractive. A sprawling house in the Connecticut woods. Yet they have failed to save for their later years, which are now suddenly here; M. turns sixty toward the end of the narrative. Together they cram freelance project after project onto their docket, sometimes working together, other times holding each other up through failed individual projects. The house is need of extensive and expensive repair and renovation. M. forgets to tell her he let their health insurance lapse. They watch helplessly as parents age and celebrate as their son, whom they nearly lost to tragedy when he was a baby, grows into a man of character.

I was married for nearly twenty-five years, years that were happy and full of adventure, but perhaps more heartbreak that we could withstand. I celebrate the beauty of what we had and the wisdom in the letting go. Dani Shapiro speaks of "the third thing" that unites couples, whether it's a child, a Corgi, an avocation or hobby, and this idea resonated deeply. I had several "third things" with my ex-husband, but in my most recent, and recently-ended relationship, the third thing seemed to be a third rail of pain and codependency. Now, as I welcome a deep and gentle love, I have at last the third thing with a partner that I've been craving: art. The mutual understanding, celebration and commiseration of what it means to be an artist, whether it's creating with paint or with pen, is such sweet relief.

Ultimately, what makes one marriage last and another end is as mysterious as time and memory. None of us really knows. We live our own legends and mythology, endure our own slings and arrows, and make a choice each day as to what we will give and how much.
Years vanish. Months collapse. Time is like a tall building made of playing cards. It seems orderly until a strong gust of wind comes along and blows the whole thing skyward. Imagine it: an entire deck of cards soaring like a flock of birds.

And that is it, isn't it? Marriage is as fragile as a house made of cards, and as breathtaking as birds on the wing. If you're lucky, you'll tumble and soar in love. Whether it lasts or not hardly seems the point, for as Dani Shapiro writes
There is no other life than this. You would not have stumbled into the vastly imperfect, beautiful, impossible present.
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Reading Progress

April 25, 2017 – Shelved
April 25, 2017 – Shelved as: to-read
August 1, 2017 – Started Reading
August 1, 2017 – Shelved as: read-2017
August 1, 2017 – Shelved as: bio-autobio-memoir
August 1, 2017 – Shelved as: best-of-2017
August 1, 2017 – Shelved as: writing-companions
August 1, 2017 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-12 of 12 (12 new)

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message 1: by Cheryl (new)

Cheryl Beautiful, poignant review, Julie!


message 2: by Debbie (new) - added it

Debbie Beautiful review, as always.


message 3: by Dianne (new) - added it

Dianne Terrific review, Julie - adding this!


Julie Christine Cheryl wrote: "Beautiful, poignant review, Julie!"

Thank you, Cheryl!


Julie Christine Debbie wrote: "Beautiful review, as always."

Thank you, my friend. It's a beautiful book.


Julie Christine Dianne wrote: "Terrific review, Julie - adding this!"

It's so lovely, Dianne. She's such a wonderful writer.


message 7: by Cecily (new)

Cecily Beautiful, Julie. And so personal. I'm glad you've now found a deep and gentle love, with a positive third thing.


Julie Christine Cecily wrote: "Beautiful, Julie. And so personal. I'm glad you've now found a deep and gentle love, with a positive third thing."

What a beautiful comment, Cecily. Thank you so much for the virtual hug!


message 9: by Carol (new)

Carol An elegant review...enhanced by your personal reflections, Julie. I've only read Family History by this author. You've persuaded me to check out her other books.


message 10: by Angela M (new)

Angela M Beautiful review, Julie. I’m sorry I missed it earlier but glad to have discovered it today.


message 11: by Jen (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jen Blau A wonderful review :)


Elyse Walters Soooooo lovely!!!!!


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