Dani Shapiro’s Slow Motion is one of the books I’ve recently read for my Women & Lit class and this is first book in a while that’s made me cry my eyes out and pity the characters (the last time I cried over a book was during last summer, Mitch Albom’s For One More Day). My instructor is a huge fan of Shapiro; she added her on Facebook and read most of her writing. I believe that Shapiro has gained a new fan as well; her writing style inspires me.
Taken place in the mid 1980s, this is a memoir about the author herself who goes through drastic changes in her life after her parents get into a disastrous car crash, and it places both of them in the ICU. Throughout the book, 23-year-old Dani goes through many challenges such as choosing to be a father’s daughter or a mother’s daughter, her dependency towards others, how time is in “slow motion” for her, and like almost every 20-something year old, she’s struggling to find her identity.
Before the accident, Dani is living in San Diego pursuing in modeling and acting. She grew up in New Jersey under a strict Jewish household. Her father, Paul, wants Dani to be “the good, little yeshiva girl” while her mother, Irene, wants her to be “the pretty popular girl”. Throughout the book, Dani goes through reminisces of when she lived with her parents; her experiences show that she hasn’t been very close to them until the accident and feels that she has disappointed them greatly and now must find a way to make it up for them. Dani is a college drop-out and is a mistress to forty-six year old attorney, Lenny Klein.
Dani met Lenny through her best friend and roommate, Jess, while she was attending Sarah Lawrence College. Lenny happens to be Jess’s stepfather; he wasn’t afraid to tell Jess that he thought of Dani as an “angel”. Lenny continued to drop off flowers and gifts to Dani, and it helped their love grow for the next four years. However, Dani was not aware that it would bring changes between her and Jess.
After the accident occurs, Dani travels from San Diego to New Jersey to take care of her parents. But it takes forever for Dani to get there and time seems to be moving slow after she encounters her parents in the hospital. The title of the book, Slow Motion, is a constant theme itself.
Both sides of the family also strike differences and conflicts between each other in the novel. Dani realizes that she doesn’t fit in with her family well at all because she chose modeling and acting over a degree. She wears fancy, brand name clothes that Lenny bought her, with fur coats and heels. She’s quite alluring. However, her half-sister from her dad’s side, Susie, has a PHD in psychology, about 10 years older than Dani and helps clients almost everyday. Dani feels like a dependent child compared to Susie and feels out of place when she acts differently towards her.
I would go more into detail about the book, but then I would be spoiling it big time. Most of the details come into place right away, about the end of chapter 2 or beginning of of 3. Also, Shapiro also goes really in depth of what actually happened during her parents’ accident in her one of her recent books called Devotion since there’s not too much juice about the accident in Slow Motion.
Many of my classmates did not find this book believable or found Dani’s tone to be way too whiney and annoying. I’d like to beg the differ.
Dani definitely grows throughout the novel. As you read it, pay attention to the tone and how it changes later in the novel because she starts to mature in her writing.
I do agree that Dani can become annoying because it seems that she complains a lot about what she’s going through. It’s simply one of the themes about this book, though; her complaints and sadness represent her isolation and dependency on her parents, Lenny, and alcohol and drug abuse. She also doesn’t fit in well, like I’ve said before; her looks are appealing and she makes the wrong decisions, and she’s a college dropout. Things just got worse for her because her parents are now in an unstable condition; her father is in a coma and her mother’s body is 80% broken.
Also, you may be able to relate to Dani in your own personal ways. I’m definitely able to relate with her when it comes to loving your family and realizing how much time is left to make the best out of things you’ve done wrong. I cried hard at one part in particular (which I vowed not spoil!) because it reminded me of a tragic day my family and I had to go through; back in August, a week before the fall semester started for me, my father had an embolism episode and survived because he was so healthy. He spent 3 days in ICU and 4 more in regular rooms. He’s doing great and is now 60 years old, still going to the gym and working. But I think that was the “Dani Day” for me when I realized how much time I felt like I had to fix things I needed to fix (I was quite the shitty teenager and I moved out at 19 – those were the 9 years I spent with my family that I put the most stress on them).
For a first review, I’m sorry I couldn’t describe too much. I mean, I would be pretty pissed if someone spoiled the climax and other juicy details of a story in a review before I even read the book.
It’s a quick read, but I suggest taking your time with it; it’s one of those depressing books that just drain the hell out of you if you spend too much time with it.
4/5 Stars, and it belongs on the favorites shelf (for me).
I read Slow Motion on Kobo eBooks for my desktop at the price of $11.99. To download on the desktop is free, unless you have the Kobo eReader. A couple negative things about this purchase – this program has no page numbers and I couldn’t find it anywhere in the settings. If you scroll, you move halfway through the book – it’s a sensitive program. I definitely don’t recommend this program for classroom purchases – even my instructor agrees.
Slow Motion was published on Oct. 21, 1999 by Mariner Books. Prices vary: $4.94 – $11.99