This book has been going around book clubs and blog circles for a while now with nearly unanimous positive reviews, yet I was very disappointed by what I found when I picked it up myself.
Mrs. Hatmaker and her friends are clearly passionate, well-intentioned people. Their church focuses on helping the homeless and disenfranchised, many of them are adopting African orphans, and her intentions in the starting this experiment were good.
But honestly I came away from the book mystified, disappointed and having failed to connect. Most of the drama that drove the book was the sole by-product of the author's refusal to plan anything (ever) and compulsive spending habits. She's sadly blasé about the simple things she doesn't know and doesn't consider important to learn (case in point, whether watermelons grow on bushes, vines or stems). It's also hard to be empathetic when so much of what she does either contradicts previous chapters or makes you question other content (if they were so desperately poor early in their marriage, why does she have so few skills in area like reducing waste, careful shopping, and basic mending of clothing in house?). It somewhat strained believability that someone who writes and researches for a living and lives in a notoriously "earthy crunchy" city was only just learning about (and terribly shocked by) the mess of industrialized food, incessant media onslaught, and the perils of vast over-consumption.
Perhaps most frustrating was the reality that she didn't actually learn any new skills or make permanent lifestyle changes. She fasted from things for a set period of time, setting arbitrary rules that fit nicely with the theme of "7" but weren't necessarily related to best practices, long-term growth or sometimes even basic logic. She flexed the rules to best suit her situation, and when the book was written went back to how things were with a slightly fresher perspective and a bonus perk here or there (cleaner house, a garden completely maintained by someone else, a few pounds lost).
If this book prompts you to make changes in your own life or become more aware of your own bad habits, then more power to you. If you're looking to really dig deep and make powerful changes in your life, I recommend looking elsewhere.
on December 29, 2014
I was so intrigued by this book when I found it. Jen is funny and real, and I hoped her experiences would help me have courage to begin massively simplifying...but I only got through the first section before putting it down and hoping the money I spent on it went to a good cause. Here's why (spoiler alert). On Day 6, the author describes her children throwing out most of their meal because there was no ketchup. I've been there, weeping for my children's detachment from the suffering and hunger in the "rest of the world," their flippant wastefulness. I, too, have an overstocked pantry with nothing to eat. But then on Day 17, she describes being at a restaurant and sending back a plate of spinach because it was tossed in vinaigrette. All I could think of was the subject's mother in C.S. Lewis's "The Screwtape Letters" eschewing a tea her host had thoughtfully prepared for the driest toast. Did she not note the hypocrisy? Two meals ruined, and for what? A condiment?? She should know the dressed salad wound up exactly where her children placed their dry fish. There was no weeping over this waste. I read to the end of the section to see if she recognized the near idolatry of fastidiously adhering to her chosen seven food items, especially in situations where she had little control, but to no avail. I was generous to give three stars, optimistically hoping the remaining book had merit, and in my belief the author's intentions were good.
on February 7, 2016
I was excited to read this book, but quickly disappointed. A former church planter's wife, I no longer travel in "Christian Life" circles, largely because of my unease with this style of celebrity spiritualist. I felt uncomfortable with her talk of "The Council" which I can imagine from experience, as a euphemism for a hip, modern church gal clique who are may be well meaning but often gossip through prayer requests and leave other women of their church feeling left out of their intimacy. That unease aside, I forged on hoping for something genuine and deeper. I did not find it. The whole book feels shallow and sophomoric in its attempt to be chatty and cool (or "weird" as she says often) and left me feeling I was listening to a teen youth group leader. I am not a young mom anymore, but by no means old and remember being turned off by this style of Faith when my own life was consumed by yound kids and full time ministry. Never having heard of Mrs. Hatmaker, I explored her website and other press which left me with the same superficiality that most "look at us" faith leaders give me. Not sure TV shows and glowing webpages on humility and simplicity make sense---God seems to call us to something quieter and still. This book is a good premise for a spiritual quest but the author is not the person to lead it for me...Perhaps I need someone more experienced, whose life more solidly delivers the lessons she seeks to impart. This felt temporary and honestly, trite.
on December 10, 2014
This book was an easy read and I felt the author was sincere for the most part, but she lives such a different life from me that I couldn't completely relate to her. She is very fortunate to be born with many advantages in life...she is healthy (she ran a half marathon), wealthy, extroverted, beautiful, has healthy children, many friends and seemingly limitless energy. I seriously don't understand how she does all that she does unless she has some help she doesn't mention (cleaning lady? ghost writer?). I planted a garden for the first time this year and I invested a lot of time solving problems and staking plants and fertilizing and watering and only had mild success. My tomatoes were successful, but I had to invest a lot of time in preserving my crop - making sauce to freeze and using my dehydrator. Did she actually invest any time in her garden herself - it seemed so effortless for her to grow so many crops when that was not my experience at all.
I looked up the websites in the back of her book in an effort to support some of those causes, but that was a bust for me. Two of websites don't exist anymore, (one she listed twice - cometogethertrading.com), some didn't have anything for sale and the one site that I finally ordered from (http://thehungersite.org) just notified me that they were out of the product I ordered and they issued me a refund. It's a nice idea to support these websites, but it didn't work out for me in practice.
I'm a little surprised that Jen didn't have problems with withdrawal related to giving up processed sugar, caffeine, etc. I've experienced withdrawal when I have given up certain foods (I've had to go on elimination diets to test for food sensitivities). She's pretty lucky if she felt good during her food fast.
I'm sure she's a very nice lady and she is doing good things in her community and raising a nice family. I did clean out my closet after reading the book and will work on removing more clutter from my life. May God continue to bless her.
on September 13, 2014
I expected a book that discussed minimalism as a way to connect with God. However, what I got was a lot of humble-bragging and complaining.
The author did 7 "fasts" from things like waste, electronics, clothes, food, etc. I did not see the purpose of the fasts other than that she could write a book about them. For instance, she chose to eat 7 foods for one month. I do not see how this was supposed to help her connect with God or lead a simpler life. She spent the whole chapter complaining about the food and hardly mentions God.
Moreover, she would spend a month de-cluttering her home and wearing only a few pieces of clothing. The next month she would talk about what she bought when she went shopping. She also took a month off from eating out, but spent the whole chapter talking about how she couldn't wait to eat out 4-5 times a week again.
The author also spends a majority of the book talking about all of the extreme Christian things she does like feeding the poor and adopting orphans. It felt like she was wanting to sound humble, but was really just bragging (i.e. humble-bragging). Plus she seems to think that those things matter more than the day to day small things. I think that attitude affected her ability to use her fasts to truly connect with God and alter her life. She fails to recognize that some Christians make a big difference through small actions. Although it is great that she helps in big ways on occasion, it is also ok to help in small ways all the time.
Finally, the author spend a very large chunk of the book talking about her thoughts on what it means to be "green". She clearly has no idea what she is talking about (e.g. when she suggests not buying GMO meat. She clearly is unaware that there is no such thing as GMO meat). Plus she contradicts her own comments with her actions all of the time.
As someone who lives a simple life (eating out sparingly, limited shopping, homemade cooking, frugal habits, minimalism), I found this book to be lacking. The author clearly did not learn from her fasts (other than how to complain), and I did not see how her fasts helped her to connect with God.
on January 27, 2016
Reading this book is like trying to chew through a tough and bland overpriced piece of meat... (Which I'm determined to do since I mistakenly bought it brand new and stiffly paid for.)
Typically when I read reviews I try to discern what is a taste issue and what are valid points. I strongly encourage anyone considering reading this book to review all the negative reviews because every single one of them were validated! Let you be warned...
Anyways, I am only to day 8 and I am pretty disappointed in the authors approach.
For example, the first chapter is about food. This book is about staging your mutiny against excess so I assumed that the author would talk about staging... as in, portion control, nutrition, healing foods, eating local in season foods, health and budget benefits of gardening, cooking cost efficient meals or illustrate that you don't have to have the latest kitchen appliances to bake a decent loaf of bread. She still could of worked in the number 7 but instead she decided to fast from all foods besides 7 for just a month. Ok... So she is fasting? Fasting makes sense when she is trying to make major life changes but the problem is this...
“And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you."
She makes a constant spectacle her fast and the complaining is excruciating. She repeatedly reminds you day in and day out how bland it tastes and the painful struggles of sticking to her new (unhealthy) diet, (while watching cable tv and going out to restaurants). Unfortunately so far she has conveyed herself as obliviously spoiled and self serving.
I also noticed several red flags about her family life and felt somewhat nauseated when she mentioned adopting. Her children seem emotionally neglected which makes me fear that adopting more children is just another fad she is playing into. I hope that somewhere along the line the family has a big awakening.
on June 8, 2014
So much good material but I struggle with the irreverence. It's difficult for me to read or hear Jesus Christ referred to as JC and I have a tough time when I read things like "seriously, God?" The substance of the book, for me, was right on target. I would have preferred a less casual approach to our Holy God. Fortunately, there is so much good information that I am determined to go through this, but, for me, I would enjoy a more respectful approach.
on August 22, 2014
This is one woman's account of how she and her family came back down to earth for a year, trying to develop simplistic lifestyle habits after a lifetime of living large. The book is written like a series of blogposts, and full of girlish banter and humble bragging. Many readers will find the book amusing and the self-description of her sacrificial lifestyle inspiring. I, on the other hand, felt it was highly annoying. The author is a wealthy pastor's wife, blogger, lifestyle advocate, and reality show personality. She is big in the Christian "celebrity" scene and popular among female Millennialists, which I imagine is the draw.
My only real bone to pick is this: this author teaches a works-based righteousness/social gospel salvation program that is neither attainable nor biblical, and masquerades it as Christianity. For those who have cut their spiritual teeth, I think this book is fine to read, if you are looking for some clean-out-your-closet inspiration and can get past the writing style. But, for new, ignorant, or young Christians, it is easy for them to get confused between social gospel/good works vs. Truth. I fear, here is yet another book that blurs these lines. Overall, this book and author should be avoided.
on August 17, 2013
I was excited to read this book after a friend told me about it. Simplifying has been a goal of mine for some time, and I was hoping this book would bring some inspiration. It did not do that at all. The writing style was casual, which is fine, but it lacked real insight. There were a lot of vignettes that didn't lead anywhere. The author missed an opportunity to gain and share real insight with a great idea. The way she wrote of her children in Ethopia was off-putting as well. The whole book came off as shallow. I was really disappointed.
on February 26, 2016
So, I've been focusing on simplifying this year. We already got rid of any form of cable (seriously folks, Comcast is the largest provider of porn in the world-cancel your subscription), we eat healthfully, shop second-hand etc...but after we stepped away from busyness to really focus on our family, and our desire to, above all, have them own their faith in Christ Jesus.
To that end I began looking for resources that might spur me on.
I stumbled upon this title on Hoopla. So, I listened.
First, I think that reducing in all consumer-based areas is good. My closet is full, and I've been working to give much of the excess away etc...
Second, Jen Hatmaker can be funny, and has a very colloquial way of writing.
Third, I believe Jen loves The Lord. And that is never a bad thing.
Fourth, she and her husband help their homeless community.
But, for all the helps and encouraging ideas I was really put off by:
1. her talking so much about her home church (ANC) that I often felt as though I were listening to a commercial.
2. Her social-justice agenda. I got to a point where if I heard "redistribution of wealth " or "disenfranchised"one more time I was going to pull my hair out. (Where am I, in a Bernie Sanders rally?) This teaching is not Biblical, nor true of the historic Christian church. Yes, the believers in the first century did share all in common, but they did not stress denial of self over and above the making of disciples and edifying the Saints. The American church has failed to take care of the widow and orphan, but swinging the pendulum the opposite direction is not the answer either. Bless your communities by focusing on the needs of others-the greatest of these needs being discipling them to follow Christ- and meet needs. But do not castigate yourself if you want to keep your new cowboy boots rather than giving them to the homeless. Our faith and salvation is not based on works, lest anyone should boast.
In the section where she describes giving away her new lovely boots it was in response to the new monastic teaching of Shane Claiborne whom she and her husband were joining for coffee after the service. Mr Claiborne did an alter call of sorts stating that if you were all in for Jesus you would leave your shoes up front( and your socks), and he would deliver them to the homeless. So, do you really believe that, even though it was 30 degrees outside, that she and her hubby would go to coffee with their hero later on with those boots on? Yeah, me neither.
3. I was surprised at how she used terminology that most pagans are known to use in expressing themselves. For example: The universe is telling you, luck, C.E. Instead of A.D. When referring to dates...etc... Jen seems to have a very bad habit of whining and complaining about many things when they cause her any discomfort. There was also the way it seemed she could not express herself without the vehicle of sarcasm. A little here or there, fine, but I grew weary of it halfway through the first "month" of "7"
4. Jen did not seem to have a comprehensive view on the experience. She would complain that her kids were eating junk in the first month rather than good organic foodstuffs, but then in the seventh month she fed them chicken fingers and mac & cheese. She weaned off of going out to restaurants, but then went out at nearly every opportunity in the months following. These are just 2 examples.
5. The gnostic ideas, and quotes from teachers like Shane Claiborne, and a monastic nun... It took a lot of patience to get through her sermonettes that made one believe that she has some new mysterious knowledge on how to live like Christ Jesus in the modern age that folks who attend mainline Christian churches simply could not fathom.
While she may not have planned it, she came across extraordinarily prideful.
6. I discussed the book with my husband and we both agreed that if one were not firmly grounded in the faith of the historic Christian church it would be easy to slip into the apostasy that is the gnostic / emergent church.
Knowing she wrote this book years back, I sought out newer blogposts to see if she had changed, or grown out of the manic stage of her new-found version of Christianity. Instead I found false humility and more pride.
I get why gals like her. She sounds like the cool chic, and she calls her readers her friends. But if someone is leading you into works-based salvation, they are not your friend folks.