Hourglass: Time, Memory, Marriage

Image of Hourglass: Time, Memory, Marriage
Release Date: 
April 10, 2017
Reviewed by: 

"experience the wonder of Shapiro’s magical prose."

At first glance, Hourglass: Time, Memory, Marriage is a record of Dani Shapiro’s life gently extricated from heartfelt passages she penned in diaries and notebooks throughout her life. In short order a reader is easily dissuaded from the notion that this is just another memoir of facts or who did what to whom. Within this magnificent work of art are a series of poetic phrases evolving into prose that are a repository of the wisdom from a life and mind well cultivated and healed.

Ordinarily a review delineates the details of a plot and the arc of the story. But somehow for Hourglass: Time, Memory, Marriage, that might feel like pouring antiseptic onto a blooming flower. What readers will digest and recall are Shapiro’s reflections, complexities, and underpinnings of both a writer’s life and the algorithms that balance marriage and family with work. The most vivid memories after reading this book are the raw vulnerability and masterful writing that subsumes us as one may feel when first falling in love.

Replete with memories as her life marches on, Shapiro observes “new traffic patterns and abandoned train tracks” as well as evolving neighborhoods. And she wistfully states, “Wherever I go—in every neighborhood—I catch younger versions of myself disappearing around corners.” How often do people notice the variegation of colors, sights, and sounds of the city? Shapiro not only takes notice of all that is around her, but the elocution of her observations are as crisp as they are eloquent.

A perfect example of one of her vivid memories is one that comes to her while exiting the subway in New York “and suddenly my father is holding my hand as we cross the busy street on our way to visit my grandmother on a Sunday afternoon. I buy a Times at a newsstand beneath what had been a dance studio in Chelsea and here I am, at twenty-two climbing the narrow steps. I am part of a parade of women carrying our gym bags . . . pinning up our hair. Comparing our taut bodies, finding fault with ourselves in the mirror. Some are probably grandmothers by now.”

And now as she gathers her journals (that become the basis of this book) around her that contain the details of her marriages, mothering, and work, she explains, “And then the ones that are not yet stories: loose fragments within me sharp as fishhooks. They impale me when I least expect it.”

Rarely does an author incite passion and ignite a reader’s desire to consume every written word, knowing that with each page there will be yet another gem to discover and contemplate that relates to our own lives. Shapiro’s book is replete with poetic reflections that examine the substantive intricacies of time, change, love, loss, and work, masterfully recounting each of life’s phases with both her heart and soul.

If there is one drawback to Hourglass: Time, Memory, Marriage it is that it is too short. At 145 pages, a reader may be left with a feeling of longing for much, much more.

Nevertheless, If Hourglass: Time, Memory, Marriage is indicative of the style and substance in the totality of work Shapiro has composed, she truly is a writer’s writer. It is highly suggested to brew a pot of tea or cocoa, warm oneself by a cozy fire, and experience the wonder of her magical prose.