What a delight to have been offered the opportunity to review Shauna Niequist’s latest book, Bittersweet, released last month by Zondervan. Stitched together with threads of the poetic and honest writing we devoured in Cold Tangerines, Shauna’s voice again rings true in this, her sophomore debut about “change, grace, and learning the hard way.”
Comprised of forty essays ranging in topic from meals lovingly prepared after a morning at the farmer’s market, to the grief and disappointment that settled in the wake of a devastating miscarriage, Shauna’s rich descriptions and morsels to ponder prompt the reader to do more than turn pages; she prompts us to turn our perspectives to find the take-away, the lesson, the a-ha moment awaiting our discovery amidst even the most swirling and overwhelming of circumstances.
One of the things I so appreciate about Shauna as an author is her ability to swivel from deep thoughts to flat out humor. In what is essentially a letter to her son, Henry, Whole Heart reads with the tenderness of a mother’s caress and will, no doubt, be treasured by this growing superhero-boy as the years stretch him into a young man. Pages later, the introductory story in Princess-free Zone had me chuckling at the thought of her band of church friends stumbling onto a crazed patch of sand in South Beach–only to be compelled moments later to remain mindful of the effect that I have–and that women collectively have–on girls like my own daughter.
As I mentioned the other day, one of the chapters that gripped me most is entitled Things I Don’t Do. In it she describes the pressure we feel [notably, the pressure mothers feel] to do it all–and do it all well. She shares with great transparency that sometimes, “…everything becomes a lifestyle. Everything is an addiction.” [pg. 56] Be assured, she’s not talking about possessing everything–the new Escalade, a great pair of designer jeans, or the latest techno gadget–she’s talking about mastering and managing everything. Work. Family. Home. Bills. The PTA. Being a fantastic wife. Having polished floors and fingernails. As a mother, her words sounded the alarm I didn’t even know resided within me. Could it be, I found myself asking, that I do the same?
With wit and masterful writing, Shauna draws us into her world, inviting us to sit like gulls on the fence while she reflects on South Haven summers and hands preparing meals and travels to the wonderful, “otherly” California. Her ability to choose exactly the right words–with exactly the correct tone–creates a symphony on paper. If you’re new to Shauna–or an old friend returning for what seems an afternoon visit over tea and homemade mini-cupcakes–you’re in for a treat that refreshes.
Bittersweet, like a good meal, is layered with flavors and experiences and emotions–raw and real–waiting to be savored and enjoyed. Dig in!
I am pleased to offer YOU, dear reader, the opportunity to win a personalized and signed copy of this book! Here’s how you can win:
1. Leave a comment in which you share a bittersweet memory or moment from your own life in 3 sentences or less.
2. Post a link on Facebook or on your own blog for an additional entry [let me know you did this by sending me an email: email@example.com]
3. Do this before midnight on Friday, September 3!
4. The winner will be selected randomly [thank you, sweet computer program] on Saturday, September 4. If you win I will contact you for info and congratulations!