January 2019 Indie Next List
“Who are we? Does who we think we are change when we learn a family secret that alters the source of our identity? Shapiro has explored issues of identity in her previous memoirs, but in her latest she applies her signature candor and heart to a riveting, provocative, and inspiring genealogical mystery and journey of discovery.”
— Roxanne Coady, R.J. Julia Booksellers, Madison, CT
“A gripping genetic detective story, and a meditation on the meaning of parenthood and family.” —Jennifer Egan, author of Manhattan Beach
From the acclaimed, best-selling memoirist and novelist—“a writer of rare talent” (Cheryl Strayed)—a memoir about the staggering family secret uncovered by a genealogy test: an exploration of the urgent ethical questions surrounding fertility treatments and DNA testing, and a profound inquiry of paternity, identity, and love.
What makes us who we are? What combination of memory, history, biology, experience, and that ineffable thing called the soul defines us?
In the spring of 2016, through a genealogy website to which she had whimsically submitted her DNA for analysis, Dani Shapiro received the stunning news that her father was not her biological father. She woke up one morning and her entire history--the life she had lived--crumbled beneath her.
Inheritance is a book about secrets--secrets within families, kept out of shame or self-protectiveness; secrets we keep from one another in the name of love. It is the story of a woman's urgent quest to unlock the story of her own identity, a story that has been scrupulously hidden from her for more than fifty years, years she had spent writing brilliantly, and compulsively, on themes of identity and family history. It is a book about the extraordinary moment we live in--a moment in which science and technology have outpaced not only medical ethics but also the capacities of the human heart to contend with the consequences of what we discover.
About the Author
DANI SHAPIRO is the author of the memoirs Hourglass, Still Writing, Devotion, and Slow Motion and five novels including Black & White and Family History. Also an essayist and a journalist, Shapiro's short fiction, essays, and journalistic pieces have appeared in The New Yorker, Granta, Tin House, One Story, Elle, Vogue, O, The Oprah Magazine, The New York Times Book Review, the op-ed pages of the New York Times, and many other publications. 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. She lives with her family in Litchfield County, Connecticut.
A Washington Post, Vulture, Bustle, Real Simple, PopSugar, and LitHub Most Anticipated Book of 2019
"Poignant...Origin stories are among the most powerful that exist because they shape people’s identities and anchor them—to a culture, a place and other people. When stories about the past change, Ms. Shapiro argues, so does the future...In losing the genetic connection to the man who raised her, Ms. Shapiro gained new insight into their enduring bond."
—The Wall Street Journal
“A fascinating and pertinent look into the murky world of medical ethics, as well as the kind of profound, insightful look into the meaning of love and connection that we’ve come to expect from Shapiro.”
"An introspective mystery."
"In Inheritance, Shapiro movingly reckons with identity and family secrets."
"Fascinating... With thoughtful candor, [Shapiro] explores the ethical questions surrounding sperm donation, the consequences of DNA testing, and the emotional impact of having an uprooted religious and ethnic identity. This beautifully written, thought-provoking genealogical mystery will captivate readers from the very first pages."
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"For all the trauma that the discovery put her through, Shapiro recognizes that what she had experienced was 'a great story'—one that has inspired her best book."
—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
"Page after page, Shapiro displays adisarming honesty and an acute desire to know the unknowable."
—Booklist (starred review)
“Inheritance is Dani Shapiro at her best: a gripping genetic detective story, and a meditation on the meaning of parenthood and family. It raises profound questions about the quandaries and responsibilities engendered by our newfound ability to know what—and whom—we are made of.”
—Jennifer Egan, author of Manhattan Beach
“With Inheritance, Dani Shapiro tells a startling story of origins—their deep reach and their lasting reverberations. This book reads like a beautiful, lived novel, moving and personal and true.”
—Meg Wolitzer, author of The Female Persuasion
“When Dani Shapiro discovers, purely by accident, that the father who raised her was not her biological father, she embarks upon a profound journey of understanding. What is ancestry? What is identity? Inheritance is a compulsively-readable investigation into selfhood that burrows to the heart of what it means to accept, to love, and to belong.”
—Anthony Doerr, author of All the Light We Cannot See
“Inheritance is an extraordinary memoir that speaks to themes as current as today’s headlines and as old as human history. With unflinching curiosity and candor, Dani Shapiro explores the mystery of her own lineage as she questions the notion of lineage itself: What makes a father a father? And how are we shaped by our family lore? This beautifully crafted book is full of wisdom and heart, showing that what we don’t know about our parents may not be as important as what we do.”
—Will Schwalbe, author of Books for Living and The End of Your Life Book Club
“Identity is frail business, and in her searing story, Dani Shapiro makes the most disquieting discovery: that everything, from her lineage, to her father, down to her very own sense of self is an astounding error. How do we live with ourselves after finding we are not who we thought we were? The answer is not disquieting. It is beautiful.”
—Andre Aciman, author of Call Me by Your Name