Summer (Bedside) Reading: Week 6

Aug 01, 2016 | by Lindsey James

We all need a read that’s a bit of a downer every once and a while. And it doesn’t hurt if it’s a memoir. That whole “oh my god, this really happened” moment is hard to replicate with fiction, even if it is based on something that really happened. But be wary of fake memoirs a la A Million Little Pieces, which was almost too unbelievable to be true, and as it turns out, it was actually unbelievable because it wasn’t true.

Slow Motion is the perfect read to kick off the 3rd week of August, as you slowly wrap your head around the inevitability of fall, but hang on to the humid threads of summer as they trail away, with sweaty (because it’s hot!) white knuckled fingers.

Slow Motion

by Dani Shapiro

You can see it right on the cover. This is a memoir of a life rescued by tragedy. What an unfathomable concept. It takes a sharp and screeching 180 to put 23 year old Shapiro face to face with exactly what she had run from. Wrapped up in her own self-absorbed, sun bleached world, she has the gift of self awareness, but is lacking the power or drive to act on it. She baldly proclaims she has no idea who she is, while she is forced to face the worst and most surreal event of her life. She wades through the emotional aftermath while also trying to clear the muddy residue of her mind after she decided to simply not feel anything, run west, and surround herself with toxic numbing people.

The car crash that leaves both her parent’s lives delicately hanging in the balance, the feverish hours flying across the country, the stark lights of the hospital, and the realization that nothing could ever be as it was, forces her to divide her life, simply, into “before” and “after”.

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Having grown up in a strict Orthodox Jewish household, Shapiro, like most teenagers do, bucks against the boundaries and traditions set forth by her parents, rattling against the conventions of her pinched New Jersey childhood like an animal in a cage.

Expertly mirroring her emotional recovery with that of her mother’s physical recovery, she opens a window not only into her own perspective, but also her mother’s. And she discovers they share the same kind debilitating stubbornness, resenting it in each other as if it weren’t their most defining quality. But that stubbornness gives way to an incredible resilience as they both begin to heal. 

Shapiro is unabashedly honest. She isn’t afraid to offend. She isn’t afraid to make the reader feel uncomfortable with the glaringly unsavory details of her personal life. I like that. It’s raw and makes her transformation that much more gratifying.

Read this.