Most of us think we know about those in our family who came before us. There may be an occasional surprise, but on the whole we are pretty confident who our parents are. Imagine if you found out that what you thought all along was not true. Would your world be rocked and those things you thought were so ingrained in yourself, be shaken?
Many people participate in DNA testing as a lark, never anticipating the results will rock them to their core and make them question their entire life. This is what happened to the author when she finds out that her Orthodox Jewish father was not her biological father, and the ancestors and relatives who gave her such a strong sense of family and identity were not her blood relatives.
The author beautifully articulates her inner struggles with identity and what her parents, the ones who raised her and are now deceased, knew. She explores the ethics and the conundrum of sperm donation and artificial insemination. She examines her upbringing, her parent’s marriage and her relationship with them, the search for her biological father and what happens when contact is attempted.
I admit that when I first heard of this book my first thought was that it didn’t sound all that interesting but after hearing so many glowing reviews I decided to give it a try. It’s a testament to the skill of the author that it was not just interesting, it was enthralling. I was completely captivated from start to finish, and listened to it in one day. Her narration is impeccable, and listening to her tell her own story made it all the more poignant.
Through her exhaustive research, unraveling of the mystery, and her introspective musings, the author eventually achieves a certain level of peace with this new knowledge. How she gets there makes for a compelling and addictive read.
This was a fantastic buddy read with my friend Marialyce, and one we both highly recommend!
For Dani Shapiro life was good. She had a successful career, a loving husband, a solid belief in her Jewishness, and a son who at the age of seventeen seemed headed down the road to success as well. She had always felt a bit uneasy about her looks being blonde and having blue eyes. There were always those comments like “Gee, you don’t look Jewish or even once when a relative commented that they could have used her in the camps because of her looks to get extra bread. As a lark, Dani and her husband take a test offered by Ancestry that millions of others have taken. Spit into a test tube and a few weeks later find out more about your roots. But for Dani, when the results come back, it is mind blowing. They had to be wrong, she was totally Jewish, she spoke Hebrew, kept a Kosher household, and yet while she was fifty percent Jewish, she is also a combination of other nationalities. How could this be? There had to be a mistake, but after checking, there was no mistake. What it meant was that her beloved father was not really her father and out there somewhere was a man who was her biological father.
As Dani comes to grips with the information, she embarks on a journey to find her biological father, using initially a clue provided by Ancestry. Through searches, questions to relatives who were still alive, Dani traces her father. How will he react now that he has a family of his own? How will Dani comes to terms with the fact that she is a “test tube” baby, she has half siblings, and all that she held most dear is crumbling around her?
This was an absolutely fascinating story, one that ensnared me from the start, and compelled me to listen to the story from start to finish in a day. This is a story that could be our story, one now with the ability to trace one’s ancestry, that could upend all we thought we are and what we thought we knew.
Thank you to Dani Shapiro for taking Jan and I on this most intriguing journey. We both highly recommend this story for all the feelings expressed and love that was shown. We both listened to this on audio and Dani did a marvelous job narrating her story. It truly touched our hearts. Definitely highly recommended “What makes a person a person? What combination of memory, history, imagination, experience, subjectivity, genetic substance, and that ineffable thing called the soul makes us who we are?”
and here’s the author:
Dani Shapiro is the bestselling author of the memoirs Hourglass, Still Writing, Devotion, and Slow Motion, and five novels including Black & White and Family History. She lives with her family in Litchfield County, Connecticut. Her latest memoir, Inheritance, will be published by Knopf in January, 2019.