Hourglass: Time, Memory, Marriage

Don't expect to leave Dani Shapiro's memoir unaltered. Both reader and book are sure to be transformed: notes will mark insights and observations begging to be revisited. Hourglass: Time, Memory, Marriage, novelist and memoirist Shapiro's ninth book and fourth memoir, is a personal yet universal reflection.

In fewer than 150 pages, Shapiro tells of the 18-year marriage ("18 years!" she periodically interjects) with her husband, M, framed by passages from her honeymoon journal. She goes back and forth in their lives: homes, careers, their 16-year-old son's birth, the aging and passing of parents. While Shapiro's eloquence carries the prose, she uses quotes liberally. A Grace Paley observation sets the tone--how the decades between 50 and 80 feel not like minutes, but seconds. A Wendell Berry essay compares the "troubles of duration" in the forms of both poetry and marriage. Referencing Anaïs Nin and Terry Tempest Williams, as well as an anonymous Instagram post advising, "Be who you needed when you were younger," Shapiro explores her life with frankness and intellectual curiosity. M is ever present: "We have formed ourselves over the years as two branches form... reaching ever farther, together." She notes how the challenge of maintaining family security reinforces their bond, since as two writers, "we have nothing to fall back on but each other." Shapiro is droll and down-to-earth (coyotes roam their Connecticut woods, and a woodpecker persists in damaging their shingles), as well as philosophical. As she reaches her conclusion ("19 years!"), she quotes poet Elizabeth Alexander, "We must be gleaners from what life has set before us." --Cheryl Krocker McKeon, manager, Book Passage, San Francisco

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