Inheritance: A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity, and Love by Dani Shapiro is a book about self discovery. When Shapiro, in her fifties, discovers that the father who raised her was not her biological father, she tail spins into an identity crisis. This is a story that delves deeply into identity, who we are and what makes us us.
I don’t want to give any spoilers, so let me speak about the book in general. I read this one for a book club, and I probably wouldn’t have picked it up otherwise. The topic didn’t really interest me. Thankfully, it was a quick, easy read and held my interest throughout.
That being said, I feel like it actually could’ve been much shorter. It definitely felt like parts were drawn out a bit and some unnecessary description was given for the sake of lengthening the book. It was an interesting read though with some suspense as we wait to see if she will find her real father, etc.
I Couldn’t Relate
One thing that annoyed me throughout the book was Shapiro’s reaction to this discovery. And that’s a terrible thing to say because she’s perfectly justified in having whatever honest reaction she had. I just had trouble relating. Her world literally fell apart at this news, and while I imagine the same news would be shocking for me as well, I don’t think it would’ve devastated me as it seemed to her.
We discussed this at length during my book club meeting. Others felt the same. But we pointed out that those of us who couldn’t relate to her extreme reaction grew up in loving, secure households.
It was clear throughout this memoir, and I wish she’d gone into more depth on it, that her childhood was not secure. Her parents both had separate issues that would probably be considered dysfunctional today. She grew up in an orthodox Jewish community that was constantly questioning her appearance since she was very blonde and blue-eyed. So from the time she was little there was an uncertainty in the back of her mind of who she really was. She never questioned her legitimacy, but her belonging.
In her other memoirs that were written before this discovery, I believe she explores her identity in greater depth. So she was already struggling with her identity, with who she was and her place in this world. This news on top of that rocky foundation would indeed be shocking and devastating.
There were a few other specifics (no spoilers!) that left us all feeling a little disjointed, but you’ll have to read for yourself to see if you agree. Everyone “liked” the book and most would recommend it. It was an easy, interesting read, but honestly I don’t think I’d recommend it myself. I’d be more interested in reading her earlier memoirs about her relationship with her faith and the father who raised her.
Let me know if you’ve read Inheritance or if you think you’ll pick it up!
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