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Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Devotion by Dani Shapiro

 Devotion: A Memoir
As mid-life approaches for Dani Shapiro, she starts to struggle with anxiety about her faith and her life. Is this all there is? Clean house, do work, send email? What is the bigger picture, or is there a bigger picture? Having been raised in a devout Jewish household but no longer practicing, Shapiro dedicates herself to finding what she really believes.

 "The whole world is a lesson in what's true," she said. "Everyone is struggling. Life is difficult for everybody. And we all die in the end. So how to deal with it?" -p35

Devotion: A Memoir  is written in a very free flowing style. There are chapter breaks, if you can call them that, of only a page at times. Shapiro weaves together bits from her daily life, her struggle with her parents before their deaths, her son's life-threatening illness as an infant, and her quest to find her place spiritually.   The comparison to Eat, Pray, Love  would not have been lost on me, even if Shapiro herself did not bring it up. What keeps this from being the same book (other than the obvious of a different author) is that Shapiro does her quest from home. She doesn't take a year off her life to search for meaning, she looks as she lives.

I believe that I have mentioned in the past that I am not a religious person, but I really enjoy reading about religion and other people's search for faith and meaning. I believe that I am a spiritual person, and that there are a lot of things to gain from the ritual (there's that ritual I love again!) of regular religious practice. I find little bits of a lot of religions appeal to me quite a bit and I suspect that were I to take upon a quest like Shapiro's that I might find something meaningful to myself.  Just in reading this book I found something that really appeals to me- Shapiro attends a local retreat and learns a short mantra to think during meditation. This is taught to her by Sylvia Boorstein and begins as such (p.36):
May I feel protected and safe.
May I feel contented and pleased.
May my physical body support me with strength.
May my life unfold smoothly with ease.
The idea was to silently repeat the phrases again and again, at first focusing on ourselves, but then eventually directing the phrases to others.

Eventually, Shapiro and Boorsteing with both shorten this to be:
May I be safe
May I be happy
May I be strong
May I live with ease

That is what I'll be taking from Devotion. A bit of a rhythm to help find some calm in my mind. My situation isn't Shapiro's. I'm not full of anxiety and despair, but my life is full of chaos and stress. If I could learn to sit for even 15 minutes a day (yeah, I'm laughing too) and blank out everything else? Well, the very idea is appealing to me.

I'm not sure if Shapiro finds what she is looking for, but I enjoyed reading about her journey. She's honest about her struggle and the causes of it, and the inability to fully relax.  It's a very personal story, one that opens what's in her heart up to all of us. Shapiro doesn't claim to know the answers and she's honest about the questions she's asking.  The book has definitely made my TBR list grow as I added most of her recommended reading to my list. (I even own a couple of them, packed away in the garage.)

This is the kind of memoir that I like best, and I'm thankful to Trish of TLC book tours for sending it to me. For more information you can find the author online:

* website
* blog, Moments of Being
* Facebook
* Twitter: @DanijShapiro

The author is also available to talk to your book club via Skype. (Oh that I had a book club!)

You can see more reviews of this one on the following blog stops:

Tuesday, February 8th: Chefdruck Musings
Wednesday, February 9th: Kelly’s Lucky You!
Thursday, February 10th: Book Club Classics!
Monday, February 14th: {Mis}Adventures of an Army Wife
Tuesday, February 15th: Books Lists Life
Wednesday, February 16th: nomadreader
Tuesday, February 22nd: Coffee and a Book Chick
Wednesday, February 23rd: Colloquium
Thursday, February 24th: The 3 R’s: Reading, ‘Riting, and Randomness
Friday, February 25th: Books in the City
Monday, February 28th: English Major’s Junk Food
Tuesday, March 1st: she reads and reads
Tuesday, March 1st: The House of the Seven Tails
Wednesday, March 2nd: Boarding in My Forties
Thursday, March 3rd: Man of La Book


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  1. Wow, it sounds like this was the perfect read for you and that you could really identify with it. I'm so glad you were on this tour!

  2. I think we've all had moments when we've wondered if this is all there is to life. This sounds thought provoking.

  3. I'm going to look for this on audio-book...sounds perfect for my to and from work commute!

  4. This sounds like an inspirational read and one many people can relate to. I will definitely be checking out the reviews from the other bloggers.

  5. This does sound like a good read and one that would well for a book club.


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