Dani Shapiro   Family History  
Dani Shapiro  
Read an Excerpt from Family History

Read an Interview with Dani Shapiro


At the beginning of Dani Shapiro's fifth book, Family History, Rachel Jensen is in bed with the shades drawn, watching home movies.

"The people on the screen are strangers to me: the at pretty young woman, her hair pulled back in a messy ponytail; that man next to her, with faint laugh lines under his eyes. Everything was so easy then. That's what I see in Ned's home movies. I had no idea my life was easy. We didn't have enough money, or space, or hours in the day. The boiler had a leak; the dog needs a bath. Little things got the better of me. Now, all that seems absurd. If I could reach a hand back to that last summer, I would slap myself. Hard. Snap Out of it! I would scream."

And so begins the incredibly tense and extremely moving story of the Jensen family, where over the course of a year, a once "happy family" finds itself broken apart—parents and child, sister and brother, and finally husband and wife. Family History is a novel that pulls you in right from the beginning, mainly because everyone knows a family like the Jensen's—before, when they were just a normal seemingly "perfect" family, and after, when they were a sorrowful example of a family gone wrong. Shapiro keeps the tension high as she skillfully moves between the present and the past, delivering a poetic page-turner which shows the fragility, and later resilience, of familial love.

Bold Type had the pleasure of catching up with Shapiro in Cambridge, Massachusetts during her Family History book tour. Over coffee at the Charles Hotel I had a chance to talk to Shapiro about her latest novel, her four-tier classification of reviews, and her advice for other aspiring writers.

—Jenny Lee

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  Photo credit: Marion Ettlinger

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