Time, Space and Family Secrets in Signal Fires by Dani Shapiro

Signal Fires

Why I am excited about this one…

Inheritance was Dani Shapiro’s shocking memoir about her DNA discovery and along with her sharing of personal and compelling subject matter, her storytelling is engrossing. Her new book is no exception; Dani started writing Signal Fires 15 years ago but was stumped by the timeline of the story. She picked it up again during the pandemic and took the advice of her friend Jennifer Egan (author of A Visit From the Goon Squad) and decided against the chronological order of events and having a linear story. She worked through those obstacles of how to write about time and ultimately let go of chronology to treat us to her first fiction book in fifteen years.

My Review:

Signal Fires was un-put-down-able for me. Dani Shapiro takes us on a life journey before and in the aftermath of a deadly car crash in a neighborhood located in a suburb of NYC back in 1985. We follow the stories of Waldo, an 11 year old boy who is enthralled with a star gazing app his father doesn’t approve of, and Dr. Ben Wilf, a man who lives across the street, once with his two children and wife, but when he is introduced to us he is elderly and alone, spending his final night in his home before moving on. Everyone is connected, shares a piece of history before and after the accident, and gazes at the same night sky.

This isn’t the first time Dani Shapiro writes about family secrets and she has mastered the creation of tension as we anticipate what will happen next while simultaneously learning about the past. A certain truth about the car accident is revealed upfront and then becomes the secret, never to be spoken of again. Who was driving? What really happened? And how far do we go to protect those we love? Spanning fifty years, 1970-2020, but not in chronological order, consequences of the choices made play out in the lives of Ben and Waldo and their families.

Signal Fires is a gripping, powerful, multigenerational story about the impact a secret has on two families, unlikely human connections and existence in this world with all its beauty and horror. It makes us think about time, space, secrets, decisions, consequences and family bonds. I highly recommend this novel!

Check Out The Star Gazing App

In Signal Fires, Waldo is obsessed with an app that allows him to visualize planets and constellations and learn about space. Dani Shapiro discovered the app in 2010 and that was the seed for this moving book.

Star Walk App

Dani Shapiro

About the Author:

Dani Shapiro is a bestselling novelist and memoirist and host of the podcast Family Secrets (now in its sixth season). Her work has been featured in the New York Times, The New Yorker, Vogue, and Time. She has taught at Columbia and New York University and is the co-founder of the Sirenland Writers Conference. Her new novel, Signal Fires, was published by Knopf in October 2022.

Dani Shapiro
Me with Dani Shapiro at East Hampton Library Fundraiser 2019
Book Nation by Jen


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