Book Review: Devotion by Dani Shapiro

March 3, 2011

Dani Shapiro is available and very enthusiastic about doing skype chats with book clubs.


“Devotion” by Dani Shapiro (Website | Facebook | Twitter | Blog) is a memoir about the authors mid-life crisis and search for spirituality. The book provided a fascinating read into the mind of a woman that, it seemed to me, couldn’t find inner calm if it slapped her in the face.

  • 272 pages
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Harper Perennial
  • Language ‏ : English
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : 9780061628351

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In “Devotion” by Dani Shapiro, writes in an absorbing style about her upbringing in an orthodox Jewish household, which is divided, much like the author, between an observant father and a resentful mother. As most of us do, Ms. Shapiro rebelled, started drinking and took on an ill-advised lover in the form of a friend’s stepfather. Her life were altered when her parents were involved in a car crush, her father tragically lost his life, her mother broke 80 bones.

Ms. Shapiro was harshly introduced to the fragility of life which seemingly became a quest for understanding what is sometimes impossible to comprehend.

The author describes to the reader, in an honest and lush prose, her search for spirituality through AA meetings, yoga, Buddhism, Judaism and more (I’m sure I forgot one or two). However, it seems that with all that searching and spiritualism the author fell into a dangerous trap – taking oneself far too seriously.

Ms. Shapiro’s spiritual journey is divided into short chapters, interweaving anecdotes from her past which gives the reader some background about present anxieties.

We have a saying in our family “rich people’s problems” – that is whenever someone complains about something trivial which only rich people, without daily monetary worries actually care about. Maybe things are going too well for Ms. Shapiro, she finally has a successful husband which she adores, a wonderful son, acclaim, a home in Connecticut and, looking at her picture, a youthful beauty many women would give their right arm to have.

So I don’t understand how she didn’t come out of her funk.

Believe it or not I found that I have several things in common with Ms. Shapiro – not the least which we both don’t consider ourselves believers, but we don’t consider ourselves non-believers either. Which is why I’m surprised the concept of Tikun Olam didn’t come up.

As Ms. Shapiro certainly knows one of the central tenants of Judaism is Tikun Olam (תיקון עולם‎) a concept of repairing the world. Meaning you should do things not because they are required, but because they help society and avoid chaos. Tikun Olam doesn’t necessarily refer to big, world changing acts, but small acts as well such as volunteering once in a while at a soup kitchen, fire brigade, or helping your elderly neighbor mow their lawn.
Almost like the “acts of random kindness” concept – those who tried either Tikun Olam or acts of random kindness can tell you what a spiritually lifting and rewarding feeling it is.

There are moments of wisdom in the book which are certainly worth the journey taken but at the end the author doesn’t find what she’s looking for… but maybe that’s the point.


Evaluating herself as mid-life approaches, author Dani Shapiro feels anxiety over which she has no control. Looking at monumental personal events in her past makes her realize where some of that unease comes from. Dani Shapiro does not consider herself religious but she is not a non-believer either and yearns to deepen her understanding of her personal sense of faith. In her search Ms. Shapiro seeks out several different experiences which are complex as they are insightful

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More Books by Dani Shapiro*

TLC Book Tour for “Devotion”:

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
Tuesday, March 8th: Chefdruck Musings

Zohar — Man of la Book
Dis­claimer: I got this book for free from TLC Book Tours
*Ama­zon links point to an affil­i­ate account, the money is usually spent on books

BOOK BLOGGERS – Have you read “Devotion”? If so link up your review below

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  • Colleen (Books in the City)March 3, 2011 at 10:00 pm

    I am sorry you did not like this – I was really touched by the book, perhaps because I struggle with some of the same questions as the author. I didn’t see her as self-absorbed but rather was impressed by her ability to keep exploring her beliefs (or lack thereof at times)!

    • zoharMarch 3, 2011 at 10:23 pm

      Thanks for the comment Colleen. I liked the book, never said I didn’t. I think at some point we all struggle with the same questions as the author but we don’t have the time, money to explore them.
      Maybe that’s not a bad thing.

  • Jennifer OMarch 4, 2011 at 10:06 am

    Great review. I think a lot of memoirs have that problem; they take themselves too seriously. But on the other end of the spectrum, are those that try too hard to be funny or blase or ironical. Give me an annoying earnest person over them, any day. What bother me about the video: she goes to a rabbi, a buddhist, a yogi…is that it? Is that where she stopped?

    • zoharMarch 4, 2011 at 10:10 am

      Hi Jennifer, Ms. Shapiro never actually found answers or stopped looking, maybe that was the point.

  • Heather J. @ TLC Book ToursMarch 6, 2011 at 5:33 pm

    I’m so glad you mentioned the concept of Tikun Olam. I read about it somewhere a while ago and found it to be a very simple yet inspiring thing to act upon.

    Thanks for being on this tour.

  • mojoheadzJanuary 22, 2022 at 10:10 am


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