'The Forgiveness Tour:" What to do when they won't apologize
West Bloomfield native Susan Shapiro's latest book might just be the tonic for our fractured, angry times: "The Forgiveness Tour: How to Find the Perfect Apology."
Because really, wouldn't we all like an apology from someone right about now?
Shapiro, a New York Times bestselling writer who specializes in memoirs, found herself thrown into doubt and turmoil when a trusted counselor lied to her - and then refused to own up to it or apologize.
That stubbornness shattered a therapeutic relationship stretching well over a decade.
The therapist, whom Shapiro refers to as "Dr. Winter" (not his real name), exercised such a profound influence on her life that the betrayal was devastating.
"For 15 years he was really an important mentor," said Shapiro, who lives in Manhattan. "He helped me quit cigarettes, alcohol and drugs, helped me get married, and helped me with my finances and career."
A resourceful woman, Shapiro didn't just sit around feeling sorry for herself.
"I put a Yiddish curse on him," she said.
You'll have to pick up the book to learn the precise nature of the doctor's betrayal. Suffice it to say it involved a vow to Shapiro on his part, and a young woman in one of her classes who seemed to pattern her life on Shapiro's in a disturbing "All About Eve" fashion.
Kirkus Reviews called the book "enlightening and universally relevant." The release date is Jan. 12 from Skyhorse Publishers. West Bloomfield's Temple Israel will host a virtual launch and conversation Jan. 14 from 8 p.m.-9 p.m. hosted by Rabbi Jennifer Kaluzny.
Shapiro, who's written 14 books -- "14 books my family hates," she quipped -- has taught at New York University, the New School and Columbia. She also offers online classes on how to sell your idea to an editor or your book to an agent or publisher.
Her first book, which was a hit, was "Five Men Who Broke My Heart: A Memoir," in which she looked up old flames and got them to agree to invasive interviews on what went wrong. The New York Times called it a "light, playful, semi-autobiographical ... history of (Shapiro's) love life from her first date at the age of 13."
Interestingly, both her first and most-recent works concern people who Shapiro believes betrayed her or badly let her down.
As a way of wrestling with her "Dr. Winter" grief and outrage, Shapiro hit the road to interview people who'd suffered at the hands of others, many of them in Michigan, to see how they managed unresolved pain.
She called it her "obsessive quest to understand forgiveness."
"I decided to interview people I knew who had stories where they were wronged," Shapiro said, "where there was either a problem forgiving or they didn’t get an apology, and how they coped."
She spoke at length with a holocaust survivor, a man who lost his wife and two kids to a drunken driver, another who couldn't forgive his wife for abandoning their marriage, and a woman whose father molested her when she was young -- and then again after an intervention and apology.
Shapiro also reached out to spiritual leaders across many faiths, from swamis to priests, to divine their truths on repentance and letting go.
The author wants to be clear -- not all forgiveness is necessarily good for the forgiver, a lesson gleaned in part from surveying the literature of the subject.
"Google the word and there’s a billion-dollar forgiveness industry out there that pretty much promotes radical forgiveness," Shapiro said. "'Forgive everyone everything.' Turns out that’s b.s. – you shouldn’t forgive everyone everything."
Among other things, sometimes forgiveness can inadvertently appear to sanction bad behavior, at least in the offender's eyes.
"Bad things can happen if you pardon someone who doesn’t deserve it," Shapiro said. "Politically it can lead to a certain lawlessness."
The trick, of course, is figuring out which unrepentant soul deserves it, and who does not. In her own life, Shapiro pushed herself to forgive her father for, among other things, not liking her books.
"In a conversation with my father," she said, "I apologized to him about something and then the floodgates broke, and we had the best conversation which kind of led him to an indirect apology for not liking my work."
And once an apology is made, the healing can begin in earnest.
'The Forgiveness Tour' with Susan Shapiro
Also: A conversation with Susan Shaprio, Holocaust survivor Emanuel (Manny) Mandel and forgiveness-activist Gary Weinstein
8 p.m.-9 p.m. Jan. 14
An online program sponsored by Temple Israel & hosted by Rabbi Jennifer Kaluzny
Visit temple-israel.org and search for the "Need to Read" program