Thursday, October 11, 2012

Book Review Devotion

Once in a while a writer just grabs me and doesn't let me go. Dani Shapiro is one such writer. Her latest memoir called Devotion: A Memoir is a moving story about a woman's sense of loss, the loss of her father when she was still only a teenager, the loss of her mother's emotional support and love, and then the loss of her childhood faith.

Shapiro was born and raised in an Orthodox Jewish family with all the rites, rituals, feasts and fasts of Judaism. However, along the way, like many people, she wandered away from that faith. Much of Devotion spoke to me as I grew up with Jewish friends and neighbors. We ate at Jewish delis and I attended several Jewish Passover dinners.

Devotion is a riveting story about one woman coming to terms with her mother who, according to Shapiro was very cold, narcissistic, and mean even to the end of her life. A low point in the book was when Shapiro's psychoanalyst said to her that in twenty years of seeing patients that, "there is no hope for you and your mother." Talking about a punch in the stomach!

We hear about Bar Mitzvah's and Bat Mitzvah's about being Jewish in a mostly Gentile waspish Connecticut, about being raised on hearing and saying prayers in Hebrew only to have found a Reform Jewish synagogue with prayers in English. On and on, story after story, of how one deals with a childhood faith which seems to have been left aside.

Reading this book through the eyes of a pastor I stopped along the way and kept thinking of all the people, in my parish, and in my life who have similar stories to Shapiro. Whether they were raised as Roman Catholics, Methodists, Lutheran, or any other faith system people have hard times dealing with that. Some folks are wounded in very deep ways. Others rebel from their faith of origin.

I recommend Shapiro's book to clergy. Her story is one that is so common today yet which is not often discussed. How we come to grips with our faith as we grow and mature as adults.

For more information about Devotion: A Memoir click here 

For more information about Dani Shapiro click here