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  • Tracy Sherlock

The human experience explored in stellar novel


Signal Fires

Dani Shapiro

Penguin Randomhouse


Dani Shapiro is a terrific writer. I first stumbled onto her work when I read Inheritance, a non-fiction book about her own experience discovering through a DNA test that the father who raised her was not her biological father. That story was so enthralling, I read every Shapiro book I could find, and none were a disappointment.

Signal Fires is also excellent. It’s a novel, but as all great writers do, Shapiro weaves timeless truths throughout the fictional story, making it equally as real as any work of non-fiction.

The story begins with three teenagers getting in a car crash. One person dies. Another takes responsibility for the crash, deservedly so, or maybe to protect someone else.

From there, the story weaves through time, telling us the stories of Dr. Ben Wilf and his wife Mimi, their two kids Theo and Sarah, and a boy genius who lives across the street, Waldo Shenkman.

Themes explored in the story include family ties and family secrets, how random events may not be so random and ultimately, the meaning of life and time. This is all explored over the span of lifetimes, which include alcoholism, the decline of Alzheimer’s, possibly the Autism spectrum, COVID-19 and many more truths we all live with in our families. It’s a beautiful story and I highly recommend it.

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