Book Review: Inheritance by Dani Shapiro


I was very excited to read Inheritance by Dani Shapiro and almost jumped for joy when our local library had a copy that had somehow avoided a hold. This book is as mysterious as the clothing that adorns the cover; unavoidable in context yet somehow familiar in the memoir genre. It is no surprise that this book is a New York Times Bestseller as it is a well-loved story of a woman's struggle with identity.

Imagine you have taken a ancestry test-- you know the kind where you spit in a cup to receive a list of family members, ethnicity, and heritage. Before taking the test you are absolutely sure of your identity, but the results come back obscure and quite different than you expected leaving you to contemplate your parentage and familial linkage along with rethinking a generational gap that you never knew existed. Now imagine that you no longer have those family members around to ask, "What is going on?" This, dear reader, is the reality Dani Shapiro finds herself in at the beginning of Inheritance.

I was hooked from her recent interview with The New York Times "The Book Review" Podcast where Shapiro expounds upon her ancestry results and how the story is reflected in her book. I think everyone wonders what it would be like to find out your parents are not actually your parents, but Shapiro's experience is much more intricate, religious, and philosophical. At times, I was left shaking my head in agreement with the reflecting nature of Shapiro's analysis of what family truly means while other times I was left biting my nails and wondering where her journey would end.

My biggest complaint with Inheritance is with the pace of the text. It reads quick; it only took me one sitting to read the text, and it reads well for a memoir. However, at times I was left feeling a sense of deja vu due to the circling of evidence it took for Shapiro to fully rationalize the results she was given and the history she was reevaluating. Once I had left the book, I realized that the pace was necessary for a tale such as the one Shapiro is weaving to reflect the meditative nature of evaluating her own feelings in the process of responding to ancestral ambiguity. However, the text is stretched to its maximum with each detail, conversation, and conflict elongated for emphasis. It left me wondering if this story would be better suited to an article or a book in similar size to Mitch Albom's Tuesdays With Morrie. I believe the positive ratings on Goodreads and its run on the bestseller list for New York Times may beg to differ.

Did I like the book? Oh, yes I did.
Did it speak to me in the way many memoirs do? Well, kinda.
Will I read it again? Probably not.


My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐


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