Daniel Shapiro on Living Through a Spouse’s Terminal Illness
In Conversation with G.P. Gottlieb on the New Books Network Podcast
Daniel Shapiro was a successful attorney in his early forties when his wife, Susan, suffered a brain bleed and a diagnosis that her future was uncertain. Stunned, and with three young children, the couple made the most of the few years that followed, before a massive second hemorrhage changed everything. Physically, Susan was badly compromised in her ability to speak, see, and walk. Mentally, she spiraled into depression and experienced a drastic personality change. The Thin Ledge: A Husband’s Memoir of Love, Trauma, and Unexpected Circumstances (River Grove Books, 2021) is about coping (often unsuccessfully) with the wreckage left in the wake of an illness that destroys a loved one. Shapiro addresses the questions that people living through unspeakable tragedy may never mention, but almost always ask.
G.P. Gottlieb: I usually ask authors how they came to write the book we’re about to discuss, but I know you started journaling when your wife experienced that first brain bleed. Can you say more about how you decided to write and publish your most personal thoughts as a memoir?
Daniel P. Shapiro: Sure. I was living an experience that I found very challenging and extreme. And I thought the best way—actually, I thought is probably not the right way to characterize it—I wound up using writing, which I’ve always gravitated to and I’ve always done professionally as a lawyer. I used writing to help me gather up and try to understand the experiences that I was having. I wasn’t writing for publication or to share with anybody actually; it was more of a way to put down this torrent of thoughts and challenges and emotions and maybe give them some more careful thought and reflection and maybe organize my thinking a little bit. Over time, it came to be something bigger than that. But I didn’t anticipate it as a book when I started writing. It was more of an exercise for me and for my mental health and and just as a way of living my life.
Daniel P. Shapiro completed his undergraduate degree as a member of Phi Beta Kappa at the University of Illinois, and earned a J.D. at the University of Chicago Law School. He grew up in the northern Chicago suburbs, his mother a homemaker and his father a professional artist. Daniel has always loved both photography and writing. Before practicing law, he was a contributing writer for a local newspaper. Over the years, and especially while undergoing the events described in his memoir, he found writing to be an effective way to access his inner thoughts and to think in a constructive way about the challenges he needed to address. Writing classes and working with excellent teachers (to whom he is immensely grateful) helped him hone his skills, with the result being his memoir, The Thin Ledge. He is already at work on a second book, a novel.
G.P. Gottlieb is the author of the Whipped and Sipped Mystery Series and a prolific baker of healthful breads and pastries. Please contact her through her website (GPGottlieb.com) if you wish to recommend an author (of a beautifully-written new novel) to interview, to listen to her previous podcast interviews, to read her mystery book reviews, or to check out some of her awesome recipes.