Bittersweet | Book Review

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“When life is sweet, say thank you and celebrate. 
And when life is bitter, say thank you and grow.”


Earlier this summer, we finally got around to checking out the author Shauna Niequist. We had been wanting to read her books for a while, starting with her book, Bittersweet: Thoughts on Change, Grace and Learning the Hard Way.  In Bittersweet, Niequist shares a collection of short essays reflecting on her life’s most challenging seasons. She intricately weaves together stories of the highs and lows of her life, with a constant theme of hope and the importance of being deeply rooted in relationships with those around her. The connections to friends, who became family, kept her grounded in faith during times of disappointment and loss. Her stories of friendship, family, and food remind us of what matters most. In this book, Shauna addresses many challenges women face, ranging from job loss, motherhood, infertility, marriage/family and challenges in her walk with God.

Her ability to tell a story is amazing; the way she paints you a picture with words leaves you looking forward to what she will say next. The ways she finds God in the midst of change and heartbreak is so easy to connect with. Her joys and struggles are, in one way or another, part every woman’s story. Whether we’re experiencing something similar to her firsthand, or using her words to support a sister during her time of hardship– we can all relate to that. These were key elements that left us saying “YES!” after every chapter. 

Her reflections throughout Bittersweet are vulnerable and honest; leaving you feeling like she is telling you her story face-to-face, over coffee or at a dinner table. Niequist gives you the permission and motivation to tell your story: both the beautiful + the broken parts, and she tells us THAT is where the presence of God is felt. Connecting with an author is important….we kinda feel like we know her personally and we love that about her!

 If you go looking for a book on spiritual growth, you will surely find a lot them! Often times, we find that many of the books in this category are full of facts and knowledge and “if you want this kind of life, then you should do this, this AND this.”  While how-to books can be great, sometimes you just need real life. That’s what we personally feel Shauna gave to us as readers.  
While reading Bittersweet, we both had stories that we connected with in our own way, some more than others.  Jointly though, we both reflected back on times we found hope during seasons of uncertainty, just as Niequist shares.  And like her, we feel that the moments centered around a table with friends and good food is magical. When you sit down, forget about the time, your obligations, your worries and you can just be… Laughing, crying and loving on people in all their raw and honest moments. Her words were like an affirmation to our desire to create a space where women could come together to develop authentic relationships.  
We really enjoyed reading this book together, and the discussions that followed. When we finished it, we immediately started reading another book of hers entitled: Bread & Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around The Table with Recipes, and we’re already sucked into it!  

A few our our favorite quotes from Bittersweet are shared below, although it was very difficult to narrow down our faves!: 

Amanda’s favorites:
“Looking back now I can see that it was more than anything a failure to believe in the story of who God is and what he is doing in this world. Instead of living that story—one of sacrifice and purpose and character—I began to live a much smaller story, and that story was only about me. I wanted an answer, a timeline, and a map. I didn’t want to have to trust God or anything I couldn’t see. I didn’t want to wait or follow. I wanted my old life back, and even while I read the mystics and the prophets, even while I prayed fervently, even while I sat in church and begged for God to direct my life, those things didn’t have a chance to transform me, because under those actions and intentions was a rocky layer of faithlessness, fear, and selfishness.”

“Left to our own devices, we sometimes choose the most locked up, dark versions of the story, but what a good friend does is turn on the lights, open the window, and remind us that there are a whole lot of ways to tell the same story.”

Marrissa’s favorites:
“The idea of bittersweet is changing the way I live, unraveling and re-weaving the way I understand life. Bittersweet is the idea that in all things there is both something broken and something beautiful, that there is a moment of lightness on even the darkest of nights, a shadow of hope in every heartbreak, and that rejoicing is no less rich even when it contains a splinter of sadness… It’s the practice of believing that we really do need both the bitter and the sweet, and that a life of nothing but sweetness rots both your teeth and your soul. Bitter is what makes us strong, what forces us to push through, what helps us earn the lines on our faces and the calluses on our hands. Sweet is nice enough, but bittersweet is beautiful.”

“Everybody has a home team: It’s the people you call when you get a flat tire or when something terrible happens. It’s the people who, near or far, know everything that’s wrong with you and love you anyways. These are the ones who tell you their secrets, who get themselves a glass of water without asking when they’re at your house. These are the people who cry when you cry. These are your people, your middle-of-the-night, no-matter-what people.”

We hope all of you will grab a copy of this book and really take time to savor it like we did. Even if you only read a chapter a day, we feel there is much to be learned from Shauna Niequists’ words and life experiences. We don’t want to give too much away because we really want you to read it, BUT… the fact that her story didn’t end with her getting everything she wanted will leave you feeling hopeful, like something beautiful can and will come out of your story, too. 

Let us know what you think about Bittersweet  after you’ve read it!

One thought on “Bittersweet | Book Review

  1. Anonymous September 17, 2015 / 6:01 pm

    Great Article. Looks like an interesting book, I'll have to check it out!

    Like

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