Inheritance by Dani Shapiro


Dani Shapiro

In 2016, through a genealogy website, Dani Shapiro received the news that her father was not her biological father. Timely and unforgettable, Dani Shapiro’s memoir is a gripping, gut-wrenching exploration of genealogy, paternity, and love.

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“A gripping genetic detective story, and a meditation on the meaning of parenthood and family.” —Jennifer Egan, author of Manhattan Beach 

From the acclaimed, best-selling memoirist and novelist—“a writer of rare talent” (Cheryl Strayed)—a memoir about the staggering family secret uncovered by a genealogy test: an exploration of the urgent ethical questions surrounding fertility treatments and DNA testing, and a profound inquiry of paternity, identity, and love.

What makes us who we are? What combination of memory, history, biology, experience, and that ineffable thing called the soul defines us?
     In the spring of 2016, through a genealogy website to which she had whimsically submitted her DNA for analysis, Dani Shapiro received the stunning news that her father was not her biological father. She woke up one morning and her entire history--the life she had lived--crumbled beneath her.
Inheritance is a book about secrets--secrets within families, kept out of shame or self-protectiveness; secrets we keep from one another in the name of love. It is the story of a woman's urgent quest to unlock the story of her own identity, a story that has been scrupulously hidden from her for more than fifty years, years she had spent writing brilliantly, and compulsively, on themes of identity and family history. It is a book about the extraordinary moment we live in--a moment in which science and technology have outpaced not only medical ethics but also the capacities of the human heart to contend with the consequences of what we discover.

Advance Galley Reviews

After having done a test myself, which were expected results, I can understand how one might feel when they are not. I Appreciated Dani Shapiro's exploration of the results she received and the memories that came with them. This is a great book for someone considering testing and gives meaning to the importance of family history to ones concept of self. thank you first to read for this suggestion.

Dani Shapiro's memoirs - at least the two I have read so far - tend to ponder big life questions. The book Inheritance deals with the question of identity. I find that in both, I have been willing to follow along for almost three hundred pages as Ms. Shapiro seems to think out loud through the dilemmas of her life. For me, the books just work. Read my complete review at Reviewed for Penguin First to Read program.

There were parts of this book that I found very interesting, I love me a good family story but some of her internal realization just struck false to me

As someone who is very interested in her own genealogy, I really wanted to dive into this book and enjoy it, since at one point in my own life, there was a question of my own paternity. I can't honestly say why I didn't finish it. Maybe it hit too close to home with feelings that I myself didn't want to feel, or maybe it was the way the author wrote the story - it didn't seem to flow as well as I had hoped. Either way, I can't write a decent review for a book that couldn't keep my attention...

Given the accessibility of genealogy and DNA testing through companies like Ancestry and 23 & Me, I felt this story was timely. Dani Shapiro finds out that her father is not her biological father and the memoir follows her journey from that realization to acceptance. There are many bumps along the way, but she writes her emotions with such candor that you're able to really empathize with what was surely a very traumatic situation. However, the book becomes so much more and I really enjoyed how she touched on the themes of what it means to be family and how that defines us as we grow up and become adults.

I received an advanced copy of this book from First to Read in exchange for an honest review. The synopsis of this book caught my attention and the book did not disappoint. It's written very well and gives you a lot to think about. I enjoyed reading Dani's journey of self discovery.

This was my first Dani Shapiro memoir, and I was impressed with her ability and inclination to cover so many angles relating to this personal issue -- paternity, the history and ethics of fertility treatments and DNA testing, faith, identity, family secrets, and biological vs social bonds.

Shapiro writes a compelling real life tale of waking up one day and finding out you're not who you think you are. While she does tell the tale of discovering her real ancestral heritage, she also explores issues of faith and family, and whether your DNA means more than the family who raised you.

I loved this story. I have thought to do one of those dna tests myself. I feel like many people would have similarities to the author if we all did them.

I’ve been a long-time reader of Dani Shapiro’s work, and this book is just as beautifully written as the others. Shapiro has a way of telling her stories in the most succinct and impactful way. She has a way of writing that brings the reader fully into the story as if we are walking through it right there with her. I felt the incredible tension throughout the book, the pain, the struggle, and the new and different way of being that emerged from finding out that her father was not her biological father. I love that Shapiro included the little (and big) clues, including her own intuition, that she had experienced throughout her life until finding out the truth. Those clues seem to always emerge so clearly in hindsight. It is fascinating that a seemingly frivolous decision can unravel a lifetime of untruths and lead us right to what we need. Shapiro captures that perfectly.

I found Inheritance to be a quick read, but found myself thinking about the issues brought up by the author's experience. It's common for new technologies to result in unanticipated effects. DNA screenings have become routine today, since the services are now so cheap. Almost a form of recreation, they can have unforeseen and troubling ramifications. Makes you wonder if in some cases it's better not to know too much about the choices made by one's ancestors. I found the topics explored especially interesting since by coincidence someone close to me recently received troubling info about her family's past that has her questioning her own identity. It's a good story. I recommend it.

I inhaled this book in two days, which is surprising, given that it's a very intense read. The author tackles thorny topics like medical ethics, faith, and what it is that makes a family with the sort of poise I can't help but envy. It's definitely forced me to think about how it is I define myself, and how much of my identity is tied up with my family. This will be one of the books that stays on my mind.

This book was not only a compelling read, but gave the reader a lot of think about. First, the author found out unexpectedly that the man who raised her wasn't her biological father, thanks to one of the many DNA analysis services on the market. What followed was an emotional journey leading to much research into what happened in the early days of fertility treatments. This also brings to mind what will continue to happen in cases of fertility treatments and closed adoptions as DNA testing kits continue to be used widely by the general population.

At first I thought the author was too consumed with needing to find out the “whys” of the circumstances regarding her conception. However, I finally realized that I could not grasp her feelings because she had experienced something that I never had to experience. Had I found out that my father was not my biological father, I may have been as consumed with the particulars as she was. I gave the book 3 stars. I enjoy reading Dani Shapiro’s books and thought this one was well-written. I just had a difficult time relating to it. I would recommed this book to others.

I found this memoir to be an interesting and intriguing read. I would definitely recommend giving it a try.

While I found this story intriguing, I never really connected to Shapiro or felt invested in her inner thoughts. I was curious to learn how the story of her finding out about her father played out. This storyline (and her connecting with her biological father) was why I kept reading. Unfortunately, the introspection surrounding these events started to feel repetitive and dry. The actual storytelling was wonderful, which made me excited to pick up some of Shapiro’s fiction in the future. Thank you to Penguin First to Read for an eARC in exchange for my honest opinion.

I have to admit that I have mixed feelings about this book. The subject is of particular interest to me, as I have recently discovered that I am donor conceived and have been having my own "adventures" relating to this life-altering news. A book so specifically similar to my own (completely bizarre) situation begged to be read, but I actually found that I had a hard time relating to Dani. I think that everyone is entitled to their own feelings, but I was exasperated with her anger at a donor who had been promised, and had every right to, anonymity. Once that had been resolved I enjoyed the book more, but I had a hard time getting past my annoyance at the sense of entitlement that had been displayed earlier.

I enjoyed reading every page of this book. The emotions I felt was like I was there with her when she found out who her biological father was. A great snowy day read! I hope other people read it as it will open their eyes.

Dani Shapiro, a best-selling author, thought it would be fun to receive her DNA results from Ancestry. However, she wasn’t prepared to learn that her father wasn’t a biological relative. Thus, begins the book, Inheritence: A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity, and Love. I honestly couldn’t put this book down. I found the bioethical questions fascinating, particularly the challenges surrounding sperm donation. Decades ago, sperm donors were told their donations would be anonymous. Who knew that DNA testing would be so easy and inexpensive in today’s world to discover family your members? What protections for anonymity can now be offered now in 2018 and beyond? Since my family is deeply connected to the Jewish religion, I found the dichotomy of Dani’s two worlds to also be extraordinarily interesting. I appreciated feedback from Dani’s family (particularly Aunt Shirley) and clergy as she struggled with the question, “Who Am I?” I would recommend this book to anyone interested in genealogy, religion or biomedical ethics. The book can be a bit verbose at times, but it’s a quick read and definitely worth the time. 4 out of 5 stars. Thank you to Penguin’s First to Read program for an advance copy of this book.

A fascinating read on what a woman went through when a DNA test turned her world upside down. Dani Shapiro shares her journey of discovery: finding out who her biological father is and that the dad she knew and loved was not related by blood. I personally struggled with some portions since my own experience is that you don’t need shared genes to be family; however the author’s heritage had been an integral part of her culture and her identity. I enjoyed how the memoir ended and would recommend it to those who are interested in family bonds, genealogy and medical ethics. I read this book as a part of the Penguin First to Read program.

Thank you to, this book was fascinating. In this day and age, you can literally find anything you want about yourself. This be a double edged sword as Dani Shapiro found out. But I think that it actually helped her understand herself in the long run. This is a book that you won't put down, it pulls you in and is as exciting as any fictional thriller.

Phenomenal read! As a genealogist who has done extensive research for biological families as well as adopted individuals, this presents an important aspect of genetic genealogy. Through a DNA test, Dani Shapiro discovers that her family history is not quite what she has always believed. The story is written as she explored her own history as well as the story of her parents' lives, their marriages and desire for family. It is an emotional read, but an important one, ultimately struggling to answer the question of what makes a parent, what is important in individual identity, and how to find peace as an adult without all of the answers to those difficult questions. I would highly recommend this author!

Extremely timely book in the age of DNA testing. Ms. Shapiro’s story is one of love and discovery. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in genealogy. It has left me many more are there?

How would you feel if through a DNA test you found that your father wasn't your father? This is the premise of Dani Shapiro's book and how she coped and survived this nightmare. I thoroughly enjoyed this well written book given to me by the Penguin's First Reads program. I can only imagine how I would feel if the same thing happened to me. I learned more about invitro fertilization and the danger of using a questionable ethics clinic. I highly recommend this book to anyone that is interested in science and healthcare in this modern age. This was a moving story handled with wit and candor.

Thank you and Penguin Books for this ARC. I give this book 5 out of 5 stars. I have only read one other book by this author, and I wondered at the time why I just couldn’t connect with her story. Perhaps this book is the explanation. Haunting her for her entire life, a sense of otherness, unconnectedness, must have come through her writing. Filled with painful honesty, Inheritance is a compelling memoir of personal discovery. I strongly recommend this book. It is an intense experience.

Thank you to and Penguin Books for this ARC. Dani Shapiro is a talented writer. I won't rehash the premise of the book. I can do something that Ms. Shapiro says in the book that she didn't do until far into the process of looking for her "identity". I can walk in the shoes of her parents. I am the same age as Ms. Shaprio. My parents are alive. They are who they say they are. They aren't perfect Dani, and they aren't the parents I would have chosen. However, that is not an option and at my age not something I am going to dwell on. Her parents desparately wanted a child. They moved mountains and they had a perfect little baby girl. No one talked about these things 54 years ago. Saying the word cancer was not done 54 years ago. Those were such different times and not for one second can the author stop and think about this. She told everyone as soon as she knew that her "family" wasn't hers. She looks for answers outside of herself with very little introspection. She is given some sound advice. She discards almost all of it. She wants to hear what she wants to hear. However, she doesn't know what she wants to hear. We all have baggage. Ms. Shapiro seems to think that she alone knows despair and heartache. She is going to take everyone down with few exceptions. At the time she finished this book her Ancestry information is still available online so that others may find it. I am appalled and repulsed. Dani Shapiro struggled with her identity from a young age. Her mother couldn't be bothered with her, but the man she knew as her father adored her as did his extended famil sans his other daughter. Her mother is Jewish which leaves her with the religion she has always known as "hers". And quite honestly, she could have renounced Judaism for any other religion at any time if she chose to do so. The book is unnecessarily lengthy. I did love how she interwove her upbringing with what she was experiencing as an adult. Again, she writes beautifully. I think she kept writing because she still isn't satisfied with the answers she has. Will she spend her life wishing for what wasn't, not seeing what is, never content or satisfied as she continues a crusade for a justice even she can't define?

Five Stars!! A wonderfully written memoir by Dani Shapiro.

A dna test shakes Dani Shapiros life to its core.The man she thought was her father according to the test was not.& so Dani’s search for the truth begins.Dani Shapiro is a wonderful writer.,this intimate book her personal story is open honest real raw.Highly recommend.

DNA testing is all the rage nowadays as people want to know exactly where their ancestors came from. Which is all well and good until you find out everything you knew about yourself isn't what you thought it was. Dani Shapiro takes us through her trials and tribulations into coming to terms with her discovery and her efforts to find out the truth about her biological father. A wonderful work that I would recommend to virtually anyone.

Dani Shapiro was used to strangers’ comments about her blond hair and blue eyes. How could it be that she was raised an Orthodox Jew? people wondered. It never occurred to her that there was any truth to these hurtful jokes. On a whim, in her fifties, she joined her husband in sending off a DNA test kit. It came back with alarming results: she was only half Ashkenazi Jew, and she and her father’s daughter from a previous marriage were unrelated. A vague memory of her mother jesting about her only daughter’s unromantic conception in Philadelphia quickly led Shapiro to discover that she’d been a test tube baby created at Edmond Farris’s dodgy institute in the early 1960s, when donor sperm was routinely mixed with the father’s “sluggish” sperm – possibly without the would-be parents’ explicit consent. Within 36 hours of starting research into her origins, thanks to online genetic databases, Shapiro had found her biological father, whom she calls Dr. Ben Walden, and even e-mailed him with her findings. She was amazed to finally find someone who looked like her, their similarities even extending to their gestures and habits. Walden had donated sperm over a period of time as a medical student, and at first seemed wary of interacting with Shapiro, no doubt worried she’d be just the first of a string of half-siblings wanting his recognition. But in the year that followed, their families carefully built up a real relationship. The whole experience was memoirist’s gold, for sure, but Shapiro does more than just give a blow-by-blow; she also weaves in childhood memories, the history of artificial insemination, flashbacks to the parents who raised her (both long dead, her father decades earlier in a car crash), and a moving account of her emotional state as she pondered her identity and what her sense of family would be in the future. It’s uncanny, she notes, that family secrets played such a pivotal role in her novels, long before she ever knew of the one at the heart of her history. Shapiro’s prose reminds me of Ann Patchett’s. I’ll be reading the rest of her memoirs for sure, starting with Slow Motion. (4 stars)

Inheritance follows Dani's journey as she realizes that the father that raised her is not her biological father. We follow her as she struggles to answer the many questions that arise for her. Did her father know? Did her mother know? What exactly did they know and to what extent? What does this mean for her now? She was raised Jewish and she is very strong in her faith. Her ties to her father are steeped in going to Temple with him, but what now that she realizes she's only half Jewish. Who is she as a person? How can she reconcile the father who raised her with the biological father that is out there in the world, who while recognizing he's her father, for the time being, wants no further communication? I'm not exactly sure why other readers are upset that they are reviewing a memoir when the word memoir is in the title. This book isn't out yet which indicates they chose an ARC of the book, and yet, they are disappointed at the author's introspection. These are legitimate questions and concerns that she struggled with. There were moments of repetitiveness, repeating stories and antidotes that had already been mentioned at least a few times, and a final read-through before publication certainly would have alleviated some of those issues. But overall I felt the book was well-written and was pleased that Shapiro was able to adjust her beliefs to accommodate the new information she has learned, able to merge it with her sense of self.

I wanted to read this book because those ancestry tests are catching on with lots of my extended family. I think people do jump in sometimes thinking it will be fun and not realizing the potential for life-changing news such as what this author Dani Shapiro received when she found out that her father wasn't really her father. The range of emotions she shares with the reader as she makes this astonishing discovery and how she searches to find her biological father and to come to terms with how she sees herself is a good read.

It’s been a long time since I’ve read a Dani Shapiro novel or memoir and was just about to read an early one I found when this came into my life. I’m not a reviewer, or at best not a GOOD reviewer, but love to say when a book is good, a book had a page-turning quality, or a book had a voice that urged you on with a comfort in the words. This book, yes, was all that. I am adopted,but have always known due to a very strange early few years in life when my grandfather adopted my mother upon his marriage to his ex and then later when he had divorced her and my mother died in a gun incident at her work in a Chicago bar in the seventies. My bio dad gave up on me early, probably not for lC’ of love, but lack of trying, lack of motivation, and though alive and signing the papers which would send me to my new family when it began, a year before the contested adoption was over, he too would be dead of a heart attack. I agreed and disagreed with parts of this book, with parts of the way the author handled them, but cannot deny they were handled with grace and presented to the reader with care and respect. That’s all I’ll say; I really enjoyed the book and by reading through Goodreads noticed three friends have added it to their queues.

Engaging and often riveting account of a middle-aged woman’s surprise at learning she is not the biological daughter of the father she revered. She learns her mother had visited a clinic for infertility and persuades herself, at least initially, that her Jewish Orthodox father could not have known. The truth as best she can determine is fascinating and the author does a great job of sharing her tale with us.

This book was unlike any memoir I'd read before. At first, I was worried that Shapiro couldn't keep my interest for 250 page (given that I thought this could be a somewhat limited topic) but I was wrong. This is a beautiful, moving story. I'm happy I've read it. I look forward to reading more of her work.

Dani Shapiro discovered a family secret that fractured her sense of personal identity to the bedrock. In this memoir, she walks through the discovery process--which is fascinating and timely, involving social media and DNA websites--and also the aftermath, the weaving of a new narrative and a new peace. Her writing voice is insightful yet personable, and I found this one of the more unputdownable (even though quiet) reads I've had in awhile. I can't wait to get my hands on her backlist! Thanks to the Penguins First Reads program for a digital ARC!

It is a testament to Shapiro's writing that I found myself continuing to read even on nights when I was too tired to think. My experience with memoirs that are written during or shortly after a life-changing event is that they can feel muddled, often as if the author has not processed his/her feelings before sharing them. However, this is not the case with Inheritance. Shapiro wrote her memoir in her mid-50s as she was going through the process of discovering that her deceased father had not been her biological father. There is an immediacy and a tautness to her book that allows the reader to share in her experiences and feelings. While Shapiro very briefly touches on the history of artificial insemination, genetics, and ethics, this is mostly a very personal and touching account of having her life turned upside down and inside out. There are a range of questions and emotions she grapples with after finding out that she is only half-Jewish despite being raised in an Orthodox family, and of coming to terms with the fact that most of the major "players" involved in her story have passed away. The end of the book is a bit abrupt and I found myself wanting an epilogue, however, this is a fascinating and compelling memoir.

In the age of mail-in DNA testing kits, it's actually surprising that I had not thought about a consequence such as the one Dani Shapiro encountered after sending her test to The repercussions of sperm donation and artificial insemination, processes on the forefront of scientific technology at that time, crashing into the DIY genetic testing available to us today posses some very intriguing and thought-provoking questions about medical ethics, morality, and standards. Inheritance: A Memoir delves into what happens after discovering the man you knew as your father your entire life turns out to not be biologically related. For someone like Shapiro who never felt fully accepted into her Jewish pedigree finding out there's a reason for feeling other sends her on a rollercoaster of emotions from denial to curiosity to acceptance. This memoir is her journey to find the answers to a question that threw her life upside down: who am I? Shapiro writes an engaging story; however, I did find certain phrases and passages used repetitively throughout. In many ways each chapter reads as a standalone, which I can foresee being parsed for essays in magazine. Given her background as an essayist, this format and writing style makes a lot of sense. I read this book quickly more for the ending and less because of the captivating prose. There was always a distance between the author and her story. I never felt like her soul was laid bare like she intended. I can't say I'd recommend this book as a personal memoir, but if genealogy or medical ethics interests you even a little, then I highly recommend this book.

I want to give my thanks for the First to Read program by Penguin Random House for giving me an advanced reader’s copy of Inheritance: A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity, and Love by Dani Shapiro in exchange for an honest review. “Once we’re past all our many labels and notions of what makes us who we think we are, we will discover that there is no I—no us.” “What never fails to draw me in, however, are secrets. Secrets within families. Secrets we keep out of shame, or self-protectiveness, or denial. Secrets and their corrosive powers. Secrets we keep from one another in the name of love.” Imagine discovering that your entire identity rested on a false narrative. That people you love may not be connected in the way you have always known. Inheritance by Dani Shapiro presents a moving representation of personal identity and how both social and biological factors influence this. In this memoir, Shapiro discovers through a simple Ancestry test, that she is not biologically related to her father. Having learned this, Shapiro works to try to understand her origins and her parent’s motives, as well as connect with the biological father that she was never aware of having. First off, I am somewhat familiar with this topic of family stories not matching the record or genealogical evidence. While working on my MSLIS degree, I worked on networking with local historians and genealogists and heard stories about how their research occasionally wandered into unexpected trajectories. (For example, someone had discovered an uncle that was adopted because of genetic tests.) Mostly, my biases are based on research about people of the distant past and not of contemporaneous circumstances such as twentieth-century medical science beyond the occasional Ancestry or similar DNA test. Reading Shapiro’s struggles presented an entirely new era of complications that I have never considered. As the interest in genealogy increases with the aging American population shows, this topic may become even more common. Shapiro had a way of really capturing the emotional difficulties that she experienced throughout this short journey. From the biased eugenics of the medical establishment of the time to the email correspondence with her biological father and the reinterpretation of the motives of her deceased parents. Shapiro showed how personal identity is very much about fluidity and change. As Shapiro states: “all of us are accidents of history or none of us are. One sperm, one egg, one moment. An interruption—a ringing phone, a knock on the door, a flashlight through the car window—a single second one way or the other and the result would be an entirely different human being. Mine was just more complicated, an accident involving vials, syringes, contracts, and secrets.” This memoir incredibly moved me, and I plan to would love to read more in the future. It gave me pause to think about how even details set in stone can often crumble into something new that can be both strange and beautiful. That we cannot ever fully understand the motives of our ancestors but that we can try to connect with them the best we can. That this connection both informs and creates us, even if it is not always a clear message. As Shapiro states at the end, she will always seek out her (social) father wherever she goes. That: “Moses found his voice and said to God at the burning bush. And I say it to my father, again and again. Hinemi. I am here. All of me.”

Thank you for the advance copy of this e-galley. This memoir tells the story of a woman’s discovery that her biological father is not who she grew up thinking he was. This lead to a lot of inner turmoil that I had difficulty sympathizing with. She loved the father that raised her, she wasn’t a product of an affair, and she is a successful, happily married mother. It felt like she was making a bigger deal out of her discovery than was called for. There were interesting parts especially the Jewish culture and the in vitro fertilization in the early years when the consequences and ethics of what was taking place weren’t considered until it was too late. Enjoyable but forgettable read.

Thank you to First to Read for ARC of “Inheritance” by Dani Shapiro.This is my first time reading Shapiro.She is an excellent story teller.She had been raised as an only child with parents who had challenges and specific beliefs. She discovers a family secret that upends her long held truths.The two most important people that can provide answers to the many questions she has , are dead. She persists to find answers and is incredibly lucky in her search. The deep seeded feelings can’t really be resolved but she creates how she came to be through her fact finding and knowledge of her parents. She was incredibly lucky to find some of the answers and she has a support system that assists through her journey. My initial thoughts after finishing the book was of how lucky she was to gain access to the truth. It also made me think of living in the world with privilege . This circumstance gives you the bearing that nothing is impossible ... through wealth, connections, education or whatever... I felt bad that I wasn’t feeling her outrage. It seemed as if she was judging her parents through an unrealistic time and cultural prism. She does seem to resolve feelings toward her father but her mother never seems to receive the same forgiveness.This makes me want to look at her past writings to learn more about that. Good read!

I'm having some technical trouble accessing this title, and after several unsuccessful attempts to seek help from the team at First to Read, I have since given up. It's a shame, because I like Dani Shapiro's work, and I was very much looking forward to reading and reviewing her latest book. Alas, my pleas for help seem to have fallen on deaf ears.

I have to confess that I was hooked by "genealogy" in the subtitle, and not as much by the "paternity and love." But I did read every word, and these days, I skip anything that isn't keeping my interest. I enjoyed learning how Dani Shapiro and her husband Michael, a journalist, tracked down Dani's biological father after Dani took a DNA test that came up with surprising results. On the other hand, I sometimes became exasperated with Dani's melodrama when it came to how this would change her life. As a woman in her fifties, Dani is pretty much who she is already and while it's certainly understandable that she would want to know how her surprise paternity came to be, it's hardy likely to make her a different person. In any case, the story unfolds nicely as a true life mystery and everything works out pretty well in the end, which left me feeling upbeat about the book.

Inheritance, the latest memoir by Shapiro, is quite poignant. I have read all of her memoirs, but this one was very moving. In her mid 50s, due to a DNA test, she discovers her beloved father is not her biological father. As Dani delved deeper into the mystery she faced many questions and apprehensive feelings. Finding her biological father took only a short time and through the Internet she connected with him and his family. It's a roller coaster ride of emotions, but ultimately Shapiro makes peace with it all.

Inheritance is a memoir by Dani Shapiro, detailing her discovery, in her 50’s, of the secret of her conception and her emotional journey to come to terms with the biological father and social father who shaped her. When she discovers as a result of a commercial DNA test that her father, the man who raised her until his death in her 20’s, is not her biological father, she searches for and finds her biological father, and discovers how her parents, having difficulty conceiving on their own, turn to a fertility institute to conceive their child. What Ms Shapiro discovers about this clinic, and about the state of artificial insemination at the time; how she relates to her new-found bio father, and how she is able to better understand her social father; all these make up the meat of this thoughtful and engaging memoir of inheritance.

As genetic genealogy tests such as those offered by become more popular, people are learning surprising things about their families. The most surprising, and potentially devastating, is what genealogists term a "non-paternal event," or NPE. That means that the person you thought was your biological father turns out not to be, and it's hard to imagine what that must feel like. "Inheritance" by Dani Shapiro gave me insight into and empathy towards the emotional turmoil that such a discovery can cause. This isn't the first book I've read on the topic of "who's my daddy?", but it's definitely the best written I've read so far. Dani Shapiro writes powerfully of her feelings when she learned that the father who raised her, and who she adored, was not the source of half of her DNA. Her search for her biological father and for the truth about how she was conceived - and what her parents knew or didn't know about the "fertility treatments" that led to her birth - are a real page turner, as are the ethical and religious issues that are raised by reproductive technology and easy/cheap genealogical testing. It's not just a story for genealogy buffs, it's a story for anyone human. Highly recommended.

I couldn't put this book down once I started. Dani's journey through the maze of science, history, religious beliefs and her emotional turmoil was so gripping, I learned a lot bout the easy days of AI and the potential pitfalls the are never considered but are so real today. This reminded me of an old Oprah show where 23 children were fathered with the same donor's sperm. Can you imagine if they didn't track each other down? Dani was very emotional about her discoveries and journey and felt the this process was overturning everything she knew about her upbringing. I sympathized with this, but I do feel that Nature plays a huge role in our upbringing. Her father loved her and raised her well, whether he knew he was the bio dad or not. The future as she tries to reach out to the bio dad will be enlightening for her as well. The writing style was entrancing and I finished the book in 2 sittings, Thanks!>

Dani Shapiro’s Inheritance is the memorializing of pieces of one woman’s life before and life after the findings discovered from a DNA analysis. Dani’s writing is prosaic, emotional, heart-felt and easy to follow. The DNA analysis threw Dani into an understandable emotional turmoil over the fact that her parents never related to her that she was conceived through artificial insemination. Her response is reasonable, even somewhat angry at her parents. HOWEVER, this emotional turmoil/disbelief over the secrecy of her parents is repeatedly reviewed to the point of, “Oh, no, not again!” This was the most frustrating part of the Inheritance, this one area of repetition, especially since the findings that the father that raised Dani, was NOT her biological one, verifying her feeling of being a puzzle piece out of place in her family. Finding out that she had a biological father, FINDING that biological father and meeting her biological family is well presented in the book—if one overlooks the repetition stated prior. Dani’s family and the family of her biological father began a journey in Inheritance. She appears to be expanding her self-confidence and self-awareness with the addition of sharing with people who have common DNA, mannerisms, and body resemblances; opening up a new world of insights, growth, and new stories to compile.

I chose this book to read, hoping I would learn something about DNA testing that I didn't know. I learned about Artificial Insemination during mid-century America. I had no idea that doctors and interns donated sperm that was mixed with the sperm of the male wanting to have a child, and that over fifty thousand children conceived this way are searching for their biological father. There is even a website for them! Dani Shapiro was lucky. Through meticulous research, she found her biological father. The book is mainly about her journey to figure out what her new father means to her and she re-examines her relationship with the father who raised her, who raised her as an Orthodox Jew! According to Jewish law, artificial insemination was considered an abomination. Shapiro wanted to figure out how her devout father could have agreed to this. She thinks she puts it together, but she will never know exactly what happened. Shapiro now waits to see if she has other half-siblings who may turn up on The one question she does not pose is what if half siblings, unknowingly marry. If there are thousands of people who have no idea of their paternity in America, this very well could happen. I found myself connecting personally with this book, as I found relatives on that have brought my mother's history to me that was completely unknown. It was a very grounding and wonderful experience. As with Shapiro, I have the same experience of parents keeping secrets, out of shame and love. It was an extremely emotional experience finding my people, and I believe if you have not had the experience of discovering your background, as we both did later in life, it might be difficult to relate to this book. Shapiro comes across at times as narcissistic just because the emotion was so relentless throughout the book, and that was definitely annoying. However, I loved how Shapiro weaved her Jewish faith throughout the book. It really is for me what saved this book. That aspect of it was so touchingly beautiful, and I'm glad that she claimed the man who raised her as her real daddy and not the sperm donor. Anyone can donate sperm, but to raise a child with love, not everyone can do that. That's what really matters. The book is a quick read. I think, shortening it and turning it into an article for a magazine like the New Yorker, would be more appropriate.

This is a fascinating story. I can see that it must have been an overwhelmingly difficult experience for the author but it is almost like a whodunnit to read. I have read the author’s previous book, Hourglass, which was very interesting and I plan to go back and read some of her earlier work.

Wow! What a book - What a story! This is one of the best books I've read in a long while. It reads like a novel and it is quite a page turner and made all the more poignant knowing it's true. A new topic to be explored and thought about in the age of DNA testing. Thank you so much for the chance to be "first to read"! I'm buying the book anyway! Dani Shapiro - this is my favorite!

***Thanks to First to Read for providing me a complimentary copy of INHERITANCE: A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity and Love in exchange for my honest review.*** INHERITANCE: A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity and Love is the story of a middle-aged woman, writer Dani Shapiro, who learns her father is not her biological father and her journey to seeing how she fits into her life. I never connected to Shapiro or her story, although I’ve read and enjoyed her books previously. If INHERITANCE were fiction, chances are Shapiro would have written an entirely different plot, with more plot and less introspection. Her word building is gorgeous, but I didn’t enjoy the book one bit. I found myself skimming, not interested in her thoughts and feelings, which isn’t what I wanted out of the story. I wanted to feel her heartbreak, confusion and pain, but did not. INHERITANCE is probably a case of it’s not you, it’s me, so read other reviews before deciding.


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