cover image Hourglass: Time, Memory, Marriage

Hourglass: Time, Memory, Marriage

Dani Shapiro. Knopf, $22.95 (160p) ISBN 978-0-451-49448-1

In this touching and intimate memoir, Shapiro (Slow Motion, Devotion) admits that she has lost interest in telling stories. Instead she focuses on what is underneath: “the soft, pulsing thing that is true.” Over the years, the truth has become less hard-edged, more nuanced, than when she was young and had “all the self-knowledge of a Labrador retriever.” She does revisit earlier themes—her father’s death, her son’s devastating illness—but really this is about her 18-year marriage to “M.” There are many ups and plenty of downs, too. M had traded his career as a successful war correspondent for one as a struggling screenwriter, so that she wouldn’t have to worry about him being on the battlefield. But she does worry about him, fretting that one more disappointment will lead to hopelessness and he will follow his mother’s descent into Alzheimer’s. Shapiro beautifully weaves together her own moving language and a commonplace book’s worth of perfect quotes from others. Journals from her honeymoon—the last she kept—are often lists of things and places that in their very meaninglessness make an effective counterpoint, emphasizing what she has learned since the days of that beginning. (Apr.)