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  • Writer's pictureJudith D Collins

Signal Fires

By: Dani Shapiro

ISBN: 9780593534724

Publisher: Knopf Doubleday

Publication Date:10/18/2022

Format: Other

Narrator: Dani Shapiro 🎧

Random House Audio

My Rating: 5 Stars


A “gripping” new novel (PEOPLE) from the best-selling author of Inheritance: On a summer night in 1985, three teenagers have been drinking. One of them gets behind the wheel of a car, and, in an instant, everything changes.

"A haunting, moving, and propulsive exploration of family secrets.” —Meg Wolitzer

ONE OF MOST EAGERLY ANTICIPATED BOOKS OF THE YEAR: LitHub, BookPage, Library Journal, The Millions

Signal Fires opens on a summer night in 1985. Three teenagers have been drinking. One of them gets behind the wheel of a car, and, in an instant, everything on Division Street changes. Each of their lives, and that of Ben Wilf, a young doctor who arrives on the scene, is shattered. For the Wilf family, the circumstances of that fatal accident will become the deepest kind of secret, one so dangerous it can never be spoken.

On Division Street, time has moved on. When the Shenkmans arrive—a young couple expecting a baby boy—it is as if the accident never happened. But when Waldo, the Shenkmans’ brilliant, lonely son who marvels at the beauty of the world and has a native ability to find connections in everything, befriends Dr. Wilf, now retired and struggling with his wife’s decline, past events come hurtling back in ways no one could ever have foreseen.

In Dani Shapiro’s first work of fiction in fifteen years, she returns to the form that launched her career, with a riveting, deeply felt novel that examines the ties that bind families together—and the secrets that can break them apart. Signal Fires is a work of haunting beauty by a masterly storyteller.

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My Review

The talented Dani Shapiro, no stranger to the writing of family secrets, returns after her last memoir, fifteen years later with the powerful and thought-provoking—RAPID FIRES.

Her soulful, meditative, and reflective storytelling focuses on connections, the universe, and constellations. With beautiful metaphors and lyrical prose—people, places, their losses, their loves, and their families—RAPID FIRES is a must-read! The what ifs?

Deeply felt, Shapiro's gripping 11th book opens in a city outside of a New York suburb in an idyllic fictional town of Avalon.

It is 1985 and opens with a fifteen-year-old boy, Theo Wilf, driving the family Oldsmobile. His older sister Sarah has been drinking, and another girl Theo likes is in the passenger seat with no seat belt, along for the ride.

A tragic car accident. The girl is dead. Sarah claims she was the driver; the family kept their secrets and did not discuss them even among themselves.

The novel explores the impact of Sarah and Theo Wilf, the two who survived the accident, and those of their immediate and extended family and relationships.

The novel toggles from the day of the accident to 25 years later. There are multiple timelines (that skip around) from 1970, 1999, 2010, 2014, and 2020. —Through the prospectives of Theo, Sarah, Ben, and his wife, Mimi, Waldo, and Waldo's father. Sarah and Theo's mother, Mimi, also developed dementia, and Waldo is connected.

Sarah becomes a screenwriter with addiction problems, and Theo a tortured eccentric chef.

Also, we meet the family across the street from the Wilfs —the Skenkmans. Dr. Wilf delivers their baby Waldo who is pre-mature and could have suffered dire problems without his help. Waldo turns out to be a genius.

There is all sort of events, including the Y2K, COVID, and the connections between Waldo and Dr. Wilf, that have to do with an app, the stars, the universe, and the constellations. Dreams of connectivity. Everything is connected.

The idea that everything is connected and versions of a person over time coexist at every moment is the heart of SIGNAL FIRES. We gradually see how tragedy and secrecy shaped and defined and shaped their lives.

Character-driven, a family saga with a 500-year-old oak tree that provides meaning and asks the question: Are we all interconnected like constellations? How secrets and hurt play out over time, and how lives are shaped and everyone around them.

Told with compassion and understanding, a bittersweet story for those who enjoy well-written literary and psychological fiction infused with a little magical realism.

I listened to the audiobook narrated by the author for an engaging and outstanding performance!

@JudithDCollins | #JDCMustReadBooks

My Rating: 5 🌟STARS

Pub Date: Oct 18, 2022

Oct 2022 Must-Read Books


A MOST ANTICIPATED BOOK: LA Times, Time Magazine, LitHub, BookPage, Library Journal, The Millions, She Reads

“Signal Fires is an urgent and compassionate meditation on memory, time, and space. Shapiro has created a world that's as wrenching as it is wondrous.”

—Ruth Ozeki, author of A Tale for the Time Being

“Signal Fires cuts a gleaming window into our alternate lives so meticulously and gloriously that it is quite nearly a primer on how to live not only in the present, but in the past and future as well. Shapiro has crafted a stunning future classic.”

—Lisa Taddeo, author of Three Women

“Signal Fires is a haunting, moving, and propulsive exploration of family secrets.”

—Meg Wolitzer, author of The Female Persuasion

“I don’t know of anyone who writes about family with the same generous understanding and gem-cut sentences as Dani Shapiro. Signal Fires confirms her as an artist of the highest order.”

—Gary Shteyngart, author of Super Sad True Love Story

"Wise, deeply perceptive, suffused with light in spite of life's darkness, Dani Shapiro's Signal Fires is an amazing novel. Shapiro inhabits her characters with lucidity and compassion, and renders their ordinary lives transcendent."

—Claire Messud, author of The Woman Upstairs

“Signal Fires could only be written by Dani Shapiro—and only now, when she's undoubtedly at the height of her powers. One gets the sense this is the story she has been building toward all these years: a parabolic family drama about the way certain moments echo through time. I'll never stop thinking about it.”

—Mary Laura Philpott, author of I Miss You When I Blink

“Gripping, unexpected, heartbreaking, and beautiful . . . Shapiro explores life’s terms in a profound way.”

—Jamie Lee Curtis

“Stunning in depth and breadth, this luminous examination of loss and acceptance, furtiveness and reliability, abandonment and friendship ultimately blazes with profound revelations . . . Like creating an intricate origami puzzle, Shapiro folds together the events that define these lives over decades, focusing on specific interludes to divulge old secrets or bury new ones. Returning to fiction after touching readers with her courageous and probing memoirs, including Inheritance, Shapiro delivers keen perceptions about family dynamics via fictional characters that exude a rare combination of substance and delicacy.”

—Booklist [starred review]

“[Shapiro’s] well-developed characters and their interesting careers seal the deal.”

—Kirkus Reviews

“Acclaimed novelist/memoirist Shapiro (Inheritance) writes with compassion and a deep understanding of the damage that secrets wreak. Shapiro’s first novel in 15 years was well worth the wait.”

—Library Journal

“A beautiful exploration of the connections between two families and the reverberations from a teenager’s lie . . . Shapiro imagines in luminous prose how each of the characters’ lives might have gone if things had turned out differently . . . an intriguing meditation.” —Publishers Weekly

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, will be published by Knopf in October.


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