Signal Fires

A novel

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Pub Date 18 Oct 2022 | Archive Date 17 Nov 2022

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Dear NetGalley Reader,

Dani Shapiro’s work as a novelist and memoirist has explored familial love and the inevitability of loss, lives shaped by myths and false narratives, and the kaleidoscopic intersection of time and memory. In Signal Fires, Dani’s first work of fiction in fifteen years and her most accomplished work to date, she returns to the form that launched her career with a stunning novel that examines the ties that bind families together and the secrets that can break them apart.

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.

By the time the Shenkmans move in across the street—a young couple expecting a baby boy—the accident has become a distant memory. But when Waldo, the Shenkmans’ brilliant but lonely son, befriends Dr. Wilf, now retired and struggling with his wife’s decline, the lives of the two families become entwined, and past events come hurtling back to Division Street in ways no one could ever have foreseen.

Signal Fires is riveting, emotional, impossible to put down, a literary and commercial tour de force, and a work of haunting beauty and complexity by a masterful storyteller. I hope you share in my excitement for this novel. I cannot wait to read your review. 


Jordan Pavlin


Alfred A. Knopf

Dear NetGalley Reader,

Dani Shapiro’s work as a novelist and memoirist has explored familial love and the inevitability of loss, lives shaped by myths and false narratives, and the kaleidoscopic...

Advance Praise

“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

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

“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

"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

“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

“Signal Fires is a haunting...

Available Editions

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ISBN 9780593534724
PRICE $28.00 (USD)

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Average rating from 62 members

Featured Reviews

"By here, he means somewhere on the western edge of the United States. It’s possible to grow up in the wrong house, on the wrong street, in the wrong town, in the wrong part of the country. It’s possible to go to the wrong school. To have the wrong dad. To be pushed to do the wrong things. But it is also possible to survive all these psychic indignities if you have one, maybe two people who recognize you for who you are. His mom saw him. By seeing him, she saved him."

I loved this book.

Shapiro's latest explores two families, going through tumultuous times, as she weaves back and forth in time to show us how they ended up here and the journey they took both in the past and into the future.

The book opens up with three teens in a car accident, where one of them dies. And of course, that moment changes the lives of the parents (and the kids) forever. Then it shows the neighbors next door, with their 11 year old son, who decides to run away from home. Then the story goes back in time and it goes forward in time and by the end of the book, you are in love with every single character and your heart has been broken and put back together in a million little ways.

This story is about family, resilience, being there for each other, and marriage. It's so very beautiful. I absolutely loved it.

with gratitude to edelweiss and Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group for an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review

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WOW! I read Signal Fires in one sitting. It’s gripping and compulsive to read, though I would say it is not a plot centered book at all.
Having read all of her memoirs, I was so excited to see that Shapiro had returned to writing fiction and this book does not disappoint. The writing is beautiful, poetic even. The story is simple, yet universal; how one incident can change the trajectory of our lives and lead to unseen consequences. The characters are real and so likeable. None are perfect and we don’t get the “diagnosis” or full story on any of them which keeps me guessing and wondering. I think every reader will identify closely with at least one of these people, possibly more. Those of us who are parents especially will empathize with all of them. We see each individual deal with love and loss and all the full range of human emotions that come along with living for any length of time. Loneliness after a loss is described in such a memorable way in the experience of Dr. Wilf. The pandemic is part of the background but does not alter the storyline in any way. It’s interesting to see how authors work these strange few years into their work and I appreciate that Shapiro includes it without having it take over. It’s just another fact of life – something to survive.
I felt so many emotions reading this book and I can’t say if more were happy or sad. It’s such a poignant telling of several lifespans and how we connect with each other – family, neighbors, lovers, friends. I enjoyed the sibling relationship particularly and the fact that the intergenerational coincidental relationship of two neighbors is probably the most life altering. Both coasts of the US are represented which was kind of interesting.
I’m not exactly a student of physics but I loved how astrophysics was conveyed in this book and learned a few interesting facts. A star can take decades to die, or it can die immediately. New stars are made up of stardust from old one. Such a metaphor for life and death!
Thanks to Knopf and Net Galley for the review copy. Theo, Sarah and especially Waldo will remain with me for a LONG time. Maybe we could see their next decades?

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Dani Shapiro is truly one of our most gifted authors. Her prose is lyrical, a pleasure to read. This novel is extraordinary. Shapiro takes us into the world of two families, the Wilfs and the Shenkmans. Their coming together at turning points in their lives provides a background for a fascinating story and beautifully developed characters.

The odd relationship between elderly Dr Wilf and pre-teen Waldo Shenkman is an unusual one, but it is such a beautiful one, that the reader becomes involved in this celestial connection. This unusual relationship is a thread that pulls the characters together. Each character is so decent and likable, except one, that the reader wants happiness for all of them. Sadly, we do face life’s inevitable tragedies with these good people.

It is a fine exploration of coincidence and timing. What forces work in our lives that pull us toward our fates? How did one night change the lives of all involved in an “accident?” Why were Waldo and Dr Ben Wilf so connected.

Thank you Netgalley for this beautiful novel about human connection.

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