Dani Shapiro is the author of the bestselling memoirs Devotion and Slow Motion, and the author of five novels, the most recent being Black & White and Family History. (Her newest book, Still Writing: The Perils and Pleasures of a Creative Life (Atlantic), comes out in October.)
“Cardioplegia” is her new story, published in the Spring/Summer issue of ZYZZYVA. The title refers to the deliberate arrest of the heart during an operation so that surgery may be performed upon the organ. In her story, it also refers to the thawing of her protagonist’s soul, a middle-aged man who “had been dying a little bit each year” … “had been feeling numb from the neck down, a head bobbling along on a set of insensate shoulders, all brains and no heart, just getting through day after day.” The story finds him reluctant at a mind-body retreat out West with his much younger (and new) love, recovering from a triple bypass and trying to make sense of it all. The following is an excerpt.