30 | Inheritance: A Member of Genealogy, Paternity, and Love by Dani Shapiro

After taking a DNA test just for the hell of it, Dani Shapiro finds out that her deceased father is not her biological father. She’s 54– married, with a son who survived a hereditary illness, an established write– and her life is turned upside down. Even more so because her father was an Orthodox Jew, Shapiro grew up strictly Kosher, reciting passages in Hebrew and Yiddish, and very much so identifying with being Jewish. As she slowly comes to grips with the fact she is not “Jewish” by blood, Shapiro seems to be able to reconcile her appearance with her identity and at least reach the idea that her father, the one who raised her, will always be her father.

I can’t even begin to imagine how insane Shapiro’s life became since finding out her biological father was not the one who raised her. Through sleuthing and having an almost ridiculous number of contacts and well-connected friends, Shapiro is able to find out who her biological father is: a retired doctor from Portland, Oregon. Incredibly and delicately, they do meet face-to-face and establish a relationship as hearts are put to ease. Shapiro also discovers that her parents had struggled becoming pregnant and that they went to an IVF clinic in Philadelphia, where a doctor utilized a cutting-edge idea: what if the man could be responsible for a couple having issues getting pregnant? The doctor mixed different sperm from donors and the client alike and used IVF to impregnate the woman. Though Shapiro is not able to confirm if her father knew that she was not his daughter, or at least if he knew about the possibility, her mentors in faith encourage her to move on from this question and accept this possibility as a gift.

With regards to the book itself, it really is a peak into Shapiro’s mind and stream of consciousness. There are points where it’s extremely dull and repetitive, Shapiro asking the same questions over and over again: if my father isn’t my father, who is? In this situation, she is clearly overthinking, constantly contemplating, and replaying situations over and over again in her mind. She puts all those cyclical thoughts onto paper. I don’t think I could be friends with Shapiro in real life and talk through her thoughts with her as harsh as that sounds. The story is interesting but the delivery was lacking. After all, if this is her fourth memoir (which, wow), the execution should have been more on point.

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