Theres something about entering parenthood that can prompt those whove drifted away from the religion of their upbringing to consider a return to it. In my own story, the wish to make a religious framework part of our sons education led my first husband and me back to the Catholic Church around the time he started school.
The decision wasn't quite as cut-and-dred for Dani Shapiro. Raised in an observant Orthodox Jewish family, shed left behind most of those practices in young adulthood, and the sudden loss of her father after a car accident when she was twenty-three was a further break with them...but a space grew where those traditions had been, and a yoga practice that was more physically than spiritually effective didn't fill it. As other losses followed - her mother, the pre-9/11 New York City shed made her home - and parenthood was threatened to be cut short by the rare seizure disorder that overtook her infant son, Shapiro became increasingly aware that she lacked a sense of faith in God, and increasingly focused on the questions that raised for her. Among those questions: was there a place for the Judaism she was raised with in her life, and that of her family, now?
Devotion explores Shapiro's learning to live with, and within, the questions - exploring Torah study and mediation, finding a synagogue for her family in the Connecticut countryside far from the urban Jewish community in New York, attending yoga classes and Buddhist retreats. She comes to understand that her personal history will always make her "complicated with Judaism;" it will always be part of who she is, and will always color her worldview. This is a concept that makes sense to me, and appeals as a way of characterizing the continuing Catholic influence on my own perspective.
This isn't a conventional faith memoir. It has a unifying theme, but it really doesn't have a strong narrative outline or linear structure, and there's no particular epiphany that provides a climax. The writing shifts back and forth across various timeframes and experiences over more than 80 brief chapters, sometimes reflective, sometimes philosophical, sometimes reporting and sometimes speculating...but, to me, never sounding anything other than authentic and honest. I related to Shapiro's questioning and did get a sense that she was finding a way to live comfortably with it; seeing that happen for someone else helps me feel a bit more comfortable living with my own.