“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, nuanced, full of depth and complexity. Bittersweet is courageous, gutsy, audacious, earthy.
“This is what I’ve come to believe about change: it’s good, in the way that childbirth is good, and heartbreak is good, and failure is good. By that I mean that it’s incredibly painful, exponentially more so if you fight it, and also that it has the potential to open you up, to open life up, to deliver you right into the palm of God’s hand, which is where you wanted to be all long, except that you were too busy pushing and pulling your life into exactly what you thought it should be.
“I’ve learned the hard way that change is one of God’s greatest gifts, and most useful tools. Change can push us, pull us, rebuke and remake us. It can show us who we’ve become, in the worst ways, and also in the best ways. I’ve learned that it’s not something to run away from, as though we could, and that in many cases, change is a function of God’s graciousness, not life’s cruelty.”
Niequist, a keen observer of life with a lyrical voice, writes with the characteristic warmth and honesty of a dear friend: always engaging, sometimes challenging, but always with a kind heart. You will find Bittersweet savory reading, indeed.
“This is the work I’m doing now, and the work I invite you into: when life is sweet, say thank you, and celebrate. And when life is bitter, say thank you, and grow.”
Starred Review. Niequist (Cold Tangerines) returns with an often humorous and always contemplative series of personal essays on bittersweet experiences, illustrating through her own life that "rejoicing is no less rich even when it contains a splinter of sadness." Spiritually, the book bravely sets out to decipher the paradoxically co-dependent nature of happiness and grief. But Niequist's title should not be seen as simply a convenient theological metaphor; i t is also a literary device. Impressively, many of Niequist's perfectly concocted chapters weave in culinary themes, evoking the sensory, physical experience of the bittersweet along with the spiritual sense of it. When writing of deep friendship and the loss that sometimes accompanies it, her narrative often revolves around a dinner table, a cooking club, or a farmer's market. Niequist's ability to describe the sensation of eating a peppery arugula salad punctuated with sweet blueberries is just as evocative as her ability to express the intricacies of love, loss, hope, and doubt. Readers of all faiths will find this book courageous, sincere, poetic, and profound. There's nothing bitter in this sweet treat of a spiritual memoir.
This very personal book offers a modest, gentle, and, yes, bittersweet reflection on life and life-changing moments. In a collection of interweaving essays, Niequist provides “an ode to all things bittersweet, to life at the edges, a love letter to what change can do in us.” To Niequist, change is a good thing even if “incredibly painful.“ In a short period of time, she became pregnant, lost a job she loved, had a baby, and wrote a book. She didn’t lose her faith as much as lost track of it. These short pieces capture moments when her world seemed to be spiraling out of control. Stunned by the loss of her beloved grandmother, she discovers that the best way to honor her life is to live in simplicity and kindness. Bittersweet is full of such small but important lessons of daily living, about how to live life again “after the brokenness.” Niequist firmly believes that it is the stories of ordinary people that can make a difference in people’s lives. “There is nothing small or inconsequential about our stories,” she concludes. “There is, in fact, nothing bigger.” --June Sawyers
I know a book is great when I start underlining multiple quotes in each chapter. I know a book is becoming a favorite when I start to write out those underlined quotes and put them around my house and office as reminders to myself...and then send them to friends who I feel can relate to those words too. I have done all three with Bittersweet.
Shauna Niequist has a way of putting into words the way I feel but can't always express. I appreciate her transparency and ability to write about the things we all struggle with, but are sometimes scared to say out loud. She gets that life is too precious to just float through. And with that refreshing perspective, sometimes it means celebrating really great moments and sometimes it means acknowledging really tough ones and helping each other through them. The best part about this book: she finds the beauty & hope in the tough moments of her life and she helps readers look for that same hope & beauty in their own stories.
Whether you're experiencing a really sweet season of life, a really bitter one, or somewhere in between like me, this book has something for you. It will make you think, leave you feeling encouraged, and give you that added dose of bravery & encouragement we all need when life gets tough. I highly recommend this book!
Recently, I received an advanced review copy of Shauna Niequist's soon-to-be released memoir/blog style book from Zondervan - Bittersweet. I loved both the topic (thoughts on change, grace, and learning the hard way) and the cover photo with its crumbly chocolate cookie.
Shauna's writing makes you feel like you have joined an inner circle of really cool 20-something girlfriends, the type of friends who are at different stages of single, married, and mom-life, yet still squeeze in time for blogging, freestyle impromptu Italian dinners, and long talks over chai tea. Her book is equal part reflection, honesty, advice, and food. She made me hungry, not just for the bounty of farmer's markets, but also for those types of friends who can linger over coffee and bare their souls with one another.
Perhaps my favorite chapter was her writing on friendship. As I finished it, I sighed, wiped away a stray tear, and made another resolution to call all of the dear women who have drifted out of my daily life (you know who you are). She writes:
"Share your life with the people you love, even if it means saving up for a ticket and going without a few things for a while to make it work. There are enough long lonely days of the same old thing, and if you let enough years pass and if you let the routine steamroll your life, you'll wake up one day, isolated and weary, and wonder what happened to all those old friends. You'll wonder why all you share is Christmas cards, and why life feels lonely and bone-dry. We were made to live connected and close . . .
So walk across the street, or drive across town, or fly across the country, but don't let really intimate loving friendships become the last item on your long to-do list. Good friendships are like breakfast. You think you are too busy to eat breakfast, but then you find yourself exhausted and cranky halfway through the day, and discover that your attempt to save time totally backfired."
So true. And, I can add as a woman who is at least a decade or so Shauna's senior, it doesn't get easier when your kids get older or your career is more established or you get married or you have more money. It is always hard and always worth it.
Shauna speaks some rich truths here. I found her honesty touching and refreshing. My only critique is that it feels, to the reader, as if one has stepped midstream into her life story. While I treasured many of her individual essays, the overall story line sometimes left me a bit lost and confused. I'd love to hear more of her backstory and the overall circumstances of her bittersweet mood at the beginning of the memoir so I could better appreciate the role faith played in her life.Read more ›
For anyone who is looking to get out of a rut or to find grace in the everyday this book is for you!! Shauna is unbelievably honest and forthright about life, love, food, wine and how hard it is to figure out who you are. She pushes you to be your best self in the most unassuming way. I highly, highly recommend this book and will be waiting unpatiently for her next book.
Bittersweet is a fantastic read! I loved Shauna's first book, Cold Tangerines but Bittersweet is totally captivating and much deeper and richer and transparent and amazingly evocative. Reading about her life experiences, her struggles, and lessons learned drew me in immediately and in surprising ways. This book is undoubtedly transformative. It will cause you to think about your own life experiences and your lessons learned and it will give you hope too if you're in a season of darkness and struggle. This book will unquestionably, make you ravenous for all the rich and sweet things life has to offer. Shauna's stories are real, honest, organic and laced with humor. Her writing is brilliant because of her creative and clever expressions. This book caused me to think about my own life experiences and struggles over and over as I kept reading her stories. There are many tender stories in Bittersweet that tugged on my heart strings and made me weep. I cried for her, I cried for me and I cried for the many who experience pain because pain has such an interesting and profound and powerful way of causing us to grow if we let it. I'm grateful for how God has shaped and molded this extraordinary human being and I'm grateful for her sticktoitiveness and the courage it took to write this book and to share these stories. Thank you Shauna! I believe everyone who reads Bittersweet will be richer for it. Through this book, she helped me understand that telling our stories is impactful, transformative and more importantly, healing. I also learned that our lives are stories laced by grace, God's grace and there is nothing sweeter than grace which is available to each and every one of us, every single day.