Thursday, February 18, 2010

Looking at the White-Hot Center of Herself

In her memoir Devotion, Dani Shapiro describes entering what Jung called the “afternoon of life,” a time to seek answers and meaning.  When her son asks her “What is sin?” Dani begins a journey to “do better,” to answer her son’s, and her own, spiritual questions with examined knowledge.

Shapiro’s life is ridden with anxiety.  The losses in her life have hit unexpectedly, in unpredictable ways, stripping her of the comfort of denial and creating a keen awareness of what might happen at any moment.  A constant hyper alert stance and a wound-up nature both exhausts her and robs her of sleep.  There are few times when she’s not anticipating crisis.

A Japanese filmmaker once said artists must be willing to look at the white-hot center of themselves and not turn away. Shapiro doesn’t turn away. She faces what she fears, including resolving her relationship with her ultra critical mother and her infant son’s unusual life threatening illness, and with courage finds her own answers, put together in her own way.  Her teachers include a rabbi, a Buddhist and a yogi.

Shapiro’s path to finding her spiritual beliefs, may not answer your questions, and probably shouldn’t, but the combination of beliefs she examines make perfect sense for her, mirroring her life and her heritage from the generations before her.

Shapiro writes with what appears to be raw honesty, allowing readers to share her most intimate thoughts and by example inspiring similar growth in others. 


  1. I've held this book at arm's length for a while because I seldom find religious discovery books to my liking, but this one sounds like it might be one I will enjoy discovering.

    Thanks for the review.

  2. I think it's more spiritual than religious and it's more about making peace with tradition and finding what helps her live with the suffering life sometimes gives us.