Tolstoy said that all happy families are alike, but what about happy marriages? Shapiro’s Hourglass is an intimate, impressionistic meditation on her own happy marriage, and the fault lines of luck and love that run through it. The near-miss at the party where she meets her husband; her infant son’s near-fatal fall that leads to a near-fatal diagnosis; the near-constant financial scramble that defines any partnership between two working artists. “Write about what could have happened,” Shapiro tells her students. “What could have happened, but didn’t.” We’ve all experienced that feeling, and reading this memoir was like ever-waking from a dream. The burden of happiness is knowing of how impossibly fortunate you have been, and how little guarantee there is that you will always be. Shapiro asks, how do you move forward without fear? By moving forward regardless, knowing that the years you have lived, even the happiest ones, still prepare you for its tragedies.
“As I consider the themes of memory and marriage in my own life, I realize that Dani Shapiro has reached across time to touch me with her insight and candor, and this is how Hourglass will touch every reader who is lucky enough to find this special little gem of a book. What a particular and original voice she has shared, reflecting on questions like, how are relationships formed? How does love burn and transform you? How does marriage, that age-old subject, play out between creators in the race against time? Through fragments, touching bits of memory, and poetic flights of fancy, this memoir honors the genre and elevates the form. I couldn't put it down and devoured it in one sitting.”
— Cristina Nosti, Books & Books, Coral Gables, FL
Elle Best Books of 2017 Kirkus Best Books of 2017 The best-selling novelist and memoirist delivers her most intimate and powerful work: a piercing, life-affirming memoir about marriage and memory, about the frailty and elasticity of our most essential bonds, and about the accretion, over time, of both sorrow and love.
Hourglass is an inquiry into how marriage is transformed by time--abraded, strengthened, shaped in miraculous and sometimes terrifying ways by accident and experience. With courage and relentless honesty, Dani Shapiro opens the door to her house, her marriage, and her heart, and invites us to witness her own marital reckoning--a reckoning in which she confronts both the life she dreamed of and the life she made, and struggles to reconcile the girl she was with the woman she has become. 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.
About the Author
DANI SHAPIRO is the author of the memoirs Still Writing, Devotion, and Slow Motion and five novels including Black & White and Family History. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, Granta, Tin House, One Story, Elle, Vogue, The New York Times Book Review, the op-ed pages of The New York Times, and the Los Angeles Times and has been broadcast on This American Life. Shapiro was recently Oprah Winfrey’s guest on Super Soul Sunday. She has taught in the writing programs at Columbia, NYU, the New School, and Wesleyan University; she is cofounder of the Sirenland Writers Conference in Positano, Italy. Shapiro lives with her family in Litchfield County, Connecticut.
“Compassionate, insightful, and powerfully honest, in Hourglass Dani Shapiro illuminates the deepest mysteries, contradictions, and consolations of so very much—love, memory, the people we used to be and the people we’ve become. In other words: life. I was absorbed by Hourglass and consoled by it, too. It’s a beautiful book by a writer of rare talent.” —Cheryl Strayed
“Rilke reminds us that “There are multitudes of people, but there are many more faces, because each person has several of them.” And how do we, moment after elusive moment, marry then continue to change and grow yet still accommodate these multitudes in one another? This is just one of the piercingly compelling questions Dani Shapiro explores in her masterfully rendered new memoir. Written with erudition, hard-earned wisdom, and sensual grace, Hourglass is a fearless and lovely mosaic of those very fragments that make life worth living, the only one we get. I adore this book.” —Andre Dubus III
“Dani Shapiro’s prose is elegant and crystal clear, the perfect vehicle for her fierce intelligence and curiosity about things that lurk just out of view. Hourglass is such a lovely book.” —Richard Russo
“Reading this book was like skating across a perfect piece of ice and then slowly noticing the cracks. Dark, cold water shows through. We can’t see the depths. Be careful, Shapiro warns, be careful, but still she skates on in the fading light with remarkable beauty and grace.” —Jenny Offill
"Poignant... Timeless... Brutal honesty is the bread and butter of the marriage memoir, yet Shapiro still manages to make her husband sound quirky and tenacious in the manner of the best romantic comedy leads. And her prose has a way of making even mundane disappointments feel portentous and universal...by the end of her short book, we want to know what will happen next." —The New York Times Book Review
“In this touching and intimate memoir… Shapiro beautifully weaves together her own moving language and a commonplace book’s worth of perfect quotes from others. —Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“To write openly about an enduring intimate relationship requires courage and tact… In this compelling account of her 18-year marriage, Shapiro carefully exposes the vulnerabilities that have subtly begun to surface within the relationship…The narrative demonstrates Shapiro’s finely tuned, poetic skills as a writer… A sharply observed and frequently moving memoir of marriage.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
"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." —Bookpage
"[Shapiro] has never written anything as raw, dark, or brave as Hourglass... a penetrating meditation... Hourglass is a stalwart witness to the erosions of time’s tides that, in being stalwart, it also wishes to stand against.’’ —The Boston Globe
"A meditation that’s intimate, wide-ranging, funny and smart." —Portland Press Herald
"Dani Shapiro presents a sharp look at the realities of marriage. She does so in delicate strokes, never seeming self-conscious. With a combination of engaged storytelling and what remains carefully unsaid, Shapiro creates an abstract intimacy that allows the reader into her experience... It is the very book that should be given to a young couple at the beginning of their relationship." —Interview Magazine
"That delicate, ferocious act of unsweeping ourselves from the river of time and unplundering its instants is what Dani Shapiro explores with uncommon elegance in Hourglass— at once a memoir and a quiet manifesto for how, despite the cavalcade of losses and the exponential narrowing of possibility marking the passage of the years, it remains possible to have an expansive and creatively invigorating existence. In Shapiro’s virtuosic hands, time compresses and expands — an accordion playing the sorrowful yet redemptive melody that is life." —Brain Pickings
"Shapiro’s honesty and devotion to her craft are impossible to detangle from her love of family....This potent memoir is a graceful meditation on the fragile balance of time, love, and loss. It’s an excellent entry point for Shapiro’s poignant and personal oeuvre. So start with this latest, and take it from there." —Signature Reads
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