Having grown up in a deeply religious and traditional family, Shapiro had no personal sense of faith, despite repeated attempts to create a connection to something greater. Feeling as if she was plunging headlong into what Carl Jung termed "the afternoon of life," she wrestled with self-doubt and a searing disquietude that would awaken her in the middle of the night. Set adrift by loss—her father's early death; the life-threatening illness of her infant son; her troubled relationship with her mother—she had become edgy and uncertain. At the heart of this anxiety, she realized, was a challenge: What did she believe? Spurred on by the big questions her young son began to raise, Shapiro embarked upon a surprisingly joyful quest to find meaning in a constantly changing world. The result isDevotion: a literary excavation to the core of a life.
In this spiritual detective story, Shapiro explores the varieties of experience she has pursued—from the rituals of her black hat Orthodox Jewish relatives to yoga shalas and meditation retreats. A reckoning of the choices she has made and the knowledge she has gained, Devotion is the story of a woman whose search for meaning ultimately leads her home. Her journey is at once poignant and funny, intensely personal—and completely universal.
My take: This was an intensely satisfying read for me. Dani Shapiro has a way of articulating the taboo questions I have inside my own head, shaking them out and writing them down. She then works through her questions (which are often my own) as she relates life-altering experiences from her own existence. She blends her Jewish faith with her yoga studies and her sharp intellect and explores the nooks and crannies of faith, God, fate, divinity, connectedness, tragedy and carpool.
I related very well with Dani's journey and her self-exploration while juggling her life as a professional and wife and mother. Of particular resonance is the sharing of the two phrases that sends me screaming and running - "Everything happens for a reason" and "God does not give us more than we can bear." We then must either accept that He is a mercurial God or there is a vast nothingness beyond this life.
I did not read this book in one sitting. I found a certain amount of peace in the rawness and reality of genuine seeking out God. It did not seem irreverent but personal. Like Dani, I came to a point in my life when I realized how unpredictable life is and I seek answers to the nature of God. Also like Dani, I belong to a religion that has answers and a lifestyle that is God-centered and yet. . .
We long to know God not know about him. We long to understand Him and know He knows us.
Thank you, Dani.