Thanks to Shapiro’s tender mastery of her story and her craft – knowing when to dwell in detail, and when the bird’s-eye view will better situate the author’s own small experience within the species’ – Hourglass yields a rare combination of lyrical writing and startling, sometimes disturbing insights. Reading Hourglass is like spying on the slow, intimate dance of two imperfect, well-intentioned humans, moving through their devotion and their doubts, riding the quotidian tides of passion and contentment and antipathy.
Dani Shapiro has written several courageous and searing memoirs...She has never written anything as raw, dark, or brave as Hourglass ... Hourglass is not an unflawed work...But for the most part she gives us a gorgeous, poetic stay against loss and confusion ... Hourglass is a stalwart witness to the erosions of time’s tides that, in being stalwart, it also wishes to stand against.
Her other memoirs have explored the terror of coping with her then-infant son's life-threatening illness and her parents' deaths. But Hourglass is different: It's less an account of catastrophe than it is a clear-eyed inspection of the slow cracks certain to develop in a long marriage ... In addition to its many other virtues, Hourglass underscores the tightrope tension of trying to support a middle-class lifestyle on writing.
Such brutal honesty is the bread and butter of the marriage memoir, yet Shapiro still manages to make her husband sound quirky and tenacious in the manner of the best romantic comedy leads. And her prose has a way of making even mundane disappointments feel portentous and universal, if a little melodramatic ... To Shapiro’s credit, by the end of her short book, we want to know what will happen next — but we come away with more philosophical musing instead. 'Time is like a tall building made of playing cards,' she tells us, meaning we’re all in this crazy, unpredictable mess together. But we’re not quite buying it. 'Use sturdier building materials!' we want to tell her.
Imbued with tender revelations, Hourglass considers the ever-changing nature of love and identity ... Shapiro deftly binds observations and memories in a way that mimics the unpredictable, seemingly random turns of the human mind while underlying stories unfold throughout the memoir. The past, present and future of her marriage coexist on the page with profound resonance ... Hourglass is a deeply moving work that is simultaneously an intimate and universal reflection on marriage.
...[a] touching and intimate memoir ... Shapiro beautifully weaves together her own moving language and a commonplace book’s worth of perfect quotes from others. Journals from her honeymoon—the last she kept—are often lists of things and places that in their very meaninglessness make an effective counterpoint, emphasizing what she has learned since the days of that beginning.
Hourglass looks at how a marriage endures over time, and at how time changes the marriage — changes the people, but also the relationship, with strengths and weaknesses toggling back and forth … The book moves around deftly in time, anchored by Shapiro’s clear writing and excerpts from her old journals. The young Shapiro, headed to France with M. on their honeymoon, seems ridiculously naive. (She had ‘all the self-knowledge of a Labrador retriever,’ Shapiro writes.) She had no idea what lay in store, the problems they would face, the way that love and passion would turn into something else.