on August 3, 2010
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!
on September 9, 2010
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.
on February 22, 2016
At the risk of hurting Shauna Niequist's very delicate feelings (see page 206), please, please believe the thoughtfully written one and two star reviews. This was our book club selection and that is the only thing that is keeping me plowing through this passionately written, but unbelievably tedious book. As others have stated, I can't decide if the author is wanting me to be jealous of her fabulously deep, wonderfully engaging friends and all of the incredible meals that they have shared, or pity her for the years and years of heart break to which she makes vague references. She is making, I think, a genuine effort to be transparent and to appreciate the good and the bad in her life, but it's just not that interesting. There are some references to prayer and to God, but mostly the answers to life's questions come from friends or her own reflections. The drama of it all is way, way too much. I'm writing this review in order to avoid having to read, yet again, how much Shauna suffers in order to write for us, followed by a description of the drama of changing one's hair color, "Last year I was trying to solve the big question of who I am in the universe, and in a tender, split-open moment, I thought, Maybe as a brunette, I'll feel at home in this unforgiving world." Bottom line - If you don't really, really enjoy reading random people's blogs about the daily stuff that happens in their lives, or if you are looking for Jesus or Biblical wisdom, this is not the book for you.
on August 3, 2010
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.
on March 11, 2015
A friend recommended that I read this book after having a miscarriage because she said it helps people learn to cope and see how the hard times come full circle and can lead to good times. In the first chapter I kept hoping that it was just an intro chapter and the ones to follow would be more insightful but I was wrong. After a few chapters in I realized I should have saved my money.
The book is the authors telling of her trials. Period, that's it. She goes into great detail about her memories and feelings about those trials but it never really comes to a close at the end of each story (chapter). Perhaps it does at the end of the book but for me I really like for stories to each have their own beginning, middle and end.
Everyone has their own way of coping and for me this just wasn't something that helped. Everyone also has their own reading style so maybe this book will resonate with many hearts and just not mine. I just wanted to put out there that the authors style is that of using short essays as chapters and they don't flow together as I feel a book should.
on August 8, 2010
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.
I have mixed reactions to BITTERSWEET. The author of this personal memoir, Shauna Niequist, is refreshingly honest about her personal struggles (such as coping with miscarriage) and her mistakes and failings. She writes simply and clearly.
She tells us about her difficulties getting pregnant and selling her house, her love for her son and grandparents, coping with her grandmother's death and her best friend's move, preparing new recipes, enjoying long-term friends. Although she writes too frequently about food and the small details of everyday life, she often reflects upon her experience and shares her insight.
In many chapters, Niequist provides guidance that has been written many times before and is not especially profound, but due to the open, personal way in which she expresses herself, her words are meaningful. "If you want your community to be marked by radical honesty, by risky, terrifying, ultimately redemptive truth-telling, you must start telling your truth first," Niequist writes. She also shares the wisdom she has gained persevering through conflicted times in her marriage: "When you stay with someone instead of walking away, it builds something new inside of you, something solid and weighty, something durable. But you have to wait for it."
Of most significance to me was Niequist's suggestion that we define our "home team," the central people in our lives that are a source of mutual support. Focus your primary energy on your home team, not the peripheral people in our lives, she advises us. In these high-paced century, in which most of us experience too many demands upon our time and too many tempting distractions, these words are an important reminder to attend to who (and what) is most important and emotionally nourishing.
My issues with the book? First, Niequist's "learning the hard way" (quoted from her subtitle) doesn't seem that hard to me, given that her difficulties are normal ones for an upper middle class married mother blessed with good health and a son she loves, a comfortable lifestyle, a close-knit family, and the freedom to write a book about herself rather than work at a fulltime job.
Second, BITTERSWEET speaks mostly to women in their 20s and 30s - and if I were in my 20s and 30s, I'd probably be more enthusiastic about it, and inclined to rate it a 4 or 5. But being twice that age, without children, and coping with decades of illness, I cannot resonate with most of her life experiences and would rate it a 2. However, appreciating Niequist's openness and ability to effectively and openly share her experience and personal wisdom, and the fact that her book is likely to appeal to so many young women readers, I give it 3 stars.
"Sometimes the happiest ending isn't the one you keep longing for, but something you absolutely can't see from where you are." Niequist tells us. Indeed, reflections such as these may speak to most of us, whatever our gender and whatever our age.
on March 1, 2016
I want to give it just one star but feel so guilty about saying that I "hate" this book.I have been trying to read it for 4 weeks now and I am only halfway through. I give up. I'm not going to force this upon myself any longer. It's poorly written, it jumps around a lot. I've seen where it was compared to a series of emails that you would send to a friend through the course of a year, well to be honest, I'd have to shake that friend and tell her we've got to talk about something else. There is a misscarriage in the book any my heart broke for Shauna because I now that was real and gut wrenching while it happened and then reliving the details in the book but honestly that was the only time I felt a remote sense of connectedness.
on October 12, 2014
"Bittersweet is 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. . . . Sweet is nice enough, but bittersweet is beautiful, nuanced, full of depth and complexity. Bittersweet is courageous, gutsy, earthy." (p. 11)
Niequist writes of her struggles after job loss, miscarriage, moves and other challenges with a quirkiness and vulnerability that are appealing. She emphasizes the longings we all have and the grace that heals our brokenness. She mercilessly exposes the reasons why we try to "fix" our husbands ("we want the other person to grow because it suits our own needs better") and why we are always running on empty ("because of my insistence that I can do all, my lust for life crosses over into a cycle of frantic activity, without soul or connection.")
She addresses the soul-crushing load of always trying to meet other people's expectations. She does this in a funny way in the chapter on motherhood, but in a more serious way in her essay on priorities. "Deciding what I want [to be] isn't that hard. But deciding what I'm willing to give up for those things is like yoga for my superego, stretching and pushing and ultimately healing that nasty little person inside of me who exists only for what people think." (p. 57)
A favorite quote: We are where we are. The world is as beautiful and broken as it ever was, and if you're like me, it takes some tricks to get back to centered, whole, deep-breathing, faith-filled places. (p. 132)
A worthwhile book.
on February 6, 2011
I am sadly disappointed that people who have read this book feel the need to not simply say they didn't feel a kinship to it, but take it to a personal level of literally tearing apart Shauna's book and her as a person without even knowing her. Not to say that I know her, but I believe that all humans, underneath all those layers, have the same deepest needs and deepest hurts. When you let the surface assumptions you want to make, or the minute details overshadow the larger truths in Shauna's books, I think you sadly miss out on the point of this story. I, for one, am beyond grateful. Although I do not have the same life as her, I still feel in my soul there is something that we share, that is a kindred spirit of sorts. I am grateful for her raw honesty in a struggle that, to some may seem flippant (which I think is an extremely cold judgment to pass on anyone who is hurting) but to me it was refreshing to have someone share so deeply and honestly and humorously a rough stage in their life. Perhaps it was that it seemed in tune with a rough time in my life, or my love of honesty and yoga pants. Whatever it is, I loved this story immensely and I can't wait to read more of her writing. I feel sad for those who missed the point behind this book, not as a "privileged woman who has lived a charmed life" for who are we to pass that judgment on someone else without having been in their shoes? I find Shauna to be a kind honest writer, and that I am in no place to feel it is ok to justify judging her life experiences, no matter how easy her life may appear to any onlookers. Everyone's pain is relative, and I am so incredibly grateful Shauna chose to share her experiences and trials with us so honestly, and in so many ways, walk through a rough time in my life and shed beautiful truth on it for me. Dear Shauna, I think you are a fantastic and honest writer, thank you for bravely doing so.