What are the forces that shape our most elemental bonds? How do we make lifelong commitments in the face of identities that are continuously shifting, and commit ourselves for all time when the self is so often in flux? What happens to love in the face of the unexpected, in the face of disappointment and compromise--how do we wrest beauty from imperfection, find grace in the ordinary, desire what we have rather than what we lack? Drawing on literature, poetry, philosophy, and theology, Shapiro writes gloriously of the joys and challenges of matrimonial life, in a luminous narrative that unfurls with urgent immediacy and sharp intelligence. Artful, intensely emotional work from one of our finest writers.
- ISBN-13: 9780451494481
- ISBN-10: 0451494482
- Publisher: Knopf Publishing Group
- Publish Date: April 2017
- Page Count: 160
- Dimensions: 8.1 x 4.9 x 0.8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 0.6 pounds
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2017-01-16
- Reviewer: Staff
In this touching and intimate memoir, Shapiro (Slow Motion, Devotion) admits that she has lost interest in telling stories. Instead she focuses on what is underneath: the soft, pulsing thing that is true. Over the years, the truth has become less hard-edged, more nuanced, than when she was young and had all the self-knowledge of a Labrador retriever. She does revisit earlier themesher fathers death, her sons devastating illnessbut really this is about her 18-year marriage to M. There are many ups and plenty of downs, too. M had traded his career as a successful war correspondent for one as a struggling screenwriter, so that she wouldnt have to worry about him being on the battlefield. But she does worry about him, fretting that one more disappointment will lead to hopelessness and he will follow his mothers descent into Alzheimers. Shapiro beautifully weaves together her own moving language and a commonplace books worth of perfect quotes from others. Journals from her honeymoonthe last she keptare often lists of things and places that in their very meaninglessness make an effective counterpoint, emphasizing what she has learned since the days of that beginning. (Apr.)
A marriage presented as mosaic
Dani Shapiro is a novelist and short story writer, but above all she is a memoirist. In her three earlier memoirs—Slow Motion, Devotion and Still Writing—Shapiro used the lens of her own life to explore family tragedy, the search for meaning and the act of writing. In her latest memoir, Hourglass: Time, Memory, Marriage, she examines her marriage to journalist and screenwriter Michael Maren.
By almost every measure, they have a strong marriage: They’ve been together for 18 years, coped with their young son’s rare and dangerous illness and succeeded in a business where very few people thrive. And yet, like every other marriage, there are fault lines. Maren, a former war correspondent, is addicted to adrenaline, and Shapiro fears that he regrets their safe life. She is also terrified that they will end their lives in poverty. They are both haunted by the deaths and illnesses of their parents. In Hourglass, Shapiro paints a beautiful portrait of a marriage that miraculously flourishes despite fear and guilt.
This is not a chronology of a marriage: It is a memoir, and while the lives we lead are linear, our memories rarely are. Shapiro analyzes her marriage by linking together the memories of seemingly unrelated events, recounting each episode with clarity and beauty. The story of Maren’s futile battle with an annoying woodpecker deepens the meaning of Shapiro’s rediscovery of her old journals. In a particularly moving episode, Shapiro recalls a vision of her grandchildren playing with her friend’s grandchildren. The golden beauty of that dream may never come true, but nonetheless its very existence becomes a real part of the structure of the marriage.
Together these memories form a reality that is as diaphanous, fragile and as surprisingly resilient as a spider web. Hourglass is not only a profound and moving reflection on Shapiro’s marriage, but on all marriages.