Picturing the Wreck
Dani Shapiro
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Buy *Picturing the Wreck* online Picturing the Wreck
Dani Shapiro
256 pages
January 1996
rated 5 of 5 possible stars

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Picturing the Wreck runs over with guilt, hope, loss and redemption; an ocean of emotions is contained within this slim volume. The pen of Dani Shapiro, author of Playing with Fire and Fugitive Blue, packs a narrative wallop, capably shaping an unforgettable narrator whose humanity affects the reader deeply. This is everything a novel ought to be.

Curled Up With a Good BookThirty years ago, psychoanalyst Solomon Grossman dealt a death blow to the life he'd laboriously created for himself. Having escaped the Nazi death camps in Germany by the slimmest straw of fate, he needed only to conjure up the faces of his slaughtered relatives to attempt seemingly unattainable accomplishments in his adopted city of New York. First college, then a doctoral degree, finally his own private practice -- Solomon goaded himself to achieve things that at first glance seemed impossible. Asking for the hand of Ruthie, the daughter of a well-to-do mafia-connected Jewish family, was outrageous, but he did it and won her father's consent. As his marriage fell further and further from the lofty ideal he imagined, one thing brought brightness back into his life: the birth of his only son, Daniel.

Enter Katrina Volk, a beautiful and complicated chronicler of disaster. A photographer for Time, Katrina is plagued with guilt-born insomnia. By picturing the ruins of other's lives -- self-immolating monks, ruins of bombed Southern black churches -- she tries to assuage a misery she can't fully understand, coming face-to-face with the absolute pain of others. She comes to Solomon for a psychoanalytic consultation, but what she brings are the makings of his destruction. Katrina and Solomon share a horrible heritage. He is the son of persecuted German Jews; she is the daughter of a high-standing Nazi. Solomon becomes obsessed with her and her advances, until they collide in misplaced passion one night. When Solomon tries to distance himself after their climactic encounter, Katrina sets in motion the charges of misconduct that sever him from his beloved Institute, and worse, cause his wife to leave him, taking her son forever from his side.

After thirty years of longing and regret, a random fluke of fate brings him the whereabouts of his lost son. Solomon, without hesitation, books a flight to Los Angeles, where Daniel is heading an investigation of a plane crash that left every passenger dead. The anticipation tells on Solomon's tired self. Daniel's absence has become the defining element of Solomon's life, and the emotions that play out when father and son finally meet are wrenchingly poignant. The story ends painfully, but with hope and, finally, the satisfaction of salvation.

Picturing the Wreck gives you more than you bargain for. It is an impressive character study, unfolding the mistakes and regrets that determine the course of Solomon's life. Drily funny, haunting and cathartic, this is a novel that makes you wish you could have known its narrator. Picturing the Wreck ought to be required reading for anyone really wanting to know what a novel should be.

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