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Inheritance: A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity, and Love

Review

Inheritance: A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity, and Love

For as long as she could remember, Dani Shapiro was filled with a sense of longing. Longing for what, though, she couldn't exactly say. It wasn't anything she could name, or even fully explain, especially at a young age. Still, the feeling persisted. Throughout her childhood, the longing propelled her to snoop through her parents' belongings when they were out of the house. It led her to walk her pet poodle through her neighborhood regularly, studying other people's families as if searching for one to which she might belong more comfortably than she did to her own. It didn't make sense. But, then again, maybe it did.

While her relationship with her mother had always been contentious and strained, her relationship with her father was much more positive. Her connection to the Orthodox Jewish man with the shiny, bald head provided her with a sense of pride. Her knowledge of their family history and link to those ancestors she'd never met sustained her when people invariably told the little blond girl that she simply couldn't be Jewish. After all, she didn't look Jewish. She didn't “match” the rest of her relatives. When Shapiro encountered people who questioned her ethnicity, she simply met their skepticism with a recitation of her Jewish “qualifications.”

"INHERITANCE is an absolutely fascinating account of what happened when one woman found out that the truths she had held to be self-evident were anything but..."

In spite of the signs that something wasn't right within her family, that there were deep, dark secrets, Shapiro never doubted that she was exactly who she thought she was. Why would she? In fact, she'd been writing extensively about family relationships, connections and history for years when a DNA test revealed that her father really wasn't her father at all.

Suddenly, Shapiro was thrown into an identity crisis of epic proportions. Instead of finding the solely Jewish DNA results she expected, she learned that her DNA consisted of 52% East European Ashkenazi Jewish ethnicity and a 48% mixture of French, Irish, English and German heritage. How was that possible?

Thankfully, Shapiro had her levelheaded and loving husband, Michael, to hold onto during this traumatic ordeal. She also had her own inner strength, resourcefulness and resilience to guide her along the way. Instead of sinking below the surface of the sea of sludge in which she found herself mired, she managed to keep treading water until she learned to swim again.

Shapiro takes us along with her on the winding journey that started when she deposited her saliva into a tube and stuck it in the mail to be analyzed by strangers. What was to be nothing more than a bit of fun altered her past and her future, and she expresses the profound effect it had on her and those around her. INHERITANCE is an absolutely fascinating account of what happened when one woman found out that the truths she had held to be self-evident were anything but, and how she realized that it was time to dig deep and determine who she really was, no matter what her DNA revealed.

Reviewed by Amie Taylor on January 18, 2019

Inheritance: A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity, and Love
by Dani Shapiro

  • Publication Date: January 15, 2019
  • Genres: Memoir, Nonfiction
  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf
  • ISBN-10: 1524732710
  • ISBN-13: 9781524732714