A deeply self-reflective, slow-moving memoir about the longing for spirituality.
At midlife, novelist Shapiro (Black & White, 2007, etc.) was anxious, sleepless and worried about nameless things, asking herself constantly, “Who was I, and what did I want for the second half of my life?” Having grown up in a religious Jewish household in New Jersey, the daughter of a kosher-keeping father and a spiteful, unbelieving mother, Shapiro found herself, by her mid 40s, still making peace with her deceased parents. Recently, the author, her husband and their young son, Jacob, moved from Brooklyn to a bucolic spot in Connecticut, enjoying the simple life, doing yoga and going on retreats—yet not unaware of sudden, inexplicable calamity, like the illness suffered by Jacob as a six-month-old baby. Although his infantile seizure disorder was resolved with medication, Shapiro felt plagued by the specter of mortality, or as she learned through her Buddhist practices, what the Buddha gleaned under the Bodhi tree: “the fragility of life, the truth of change.” Befriending such well-known yoga teachers as Sylvia Boorstein and Stephen Cope, whose teachings grace this memoir, the author worked through her alienation from God. She found a neighborhood synagogue and started Jacob at Hebrew school, attended occasional services, donned her father’s traditional garb for the Jewish Theological Seminary’s first egalitarian service and found joy in visiting her aged aunt. In short, Shapiro recognized that the sacred can be found in the familiar and everyday. There is much pretty writing here, taking cues from the limpid prose of Annie Dillard and Thoreau, as well as a winning candor and self-scrutiny.
Measured, protracted prose leads this affecting journey.