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4.7 out of 5 stars
Firstlight: The Early Inspirational Writings
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on October 18, 2006
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
Having admired Sue Monk Kidd's nonfiction for years, I was thrilled at the chance to dip into her early essays -- and wasn't disappointed. This nicely arranged collection reveals Sue's gift for illuminating the sacred in life's most ordinary moments while it offers a tender glimpse into her early vocations as wife, mother, and nurse. Also included are pieces hinting at Kidd's spiritual struggles and epiphanies, which she expanded upon later in WHEN THE HEART WAITS and DANCE OF THE DISSIDENT DAUGHTER. This book is a lovely gift to all of us who've admired the work of this beloved author. It can be read and savored a little at a time, and will serve as a reminder to pause and appreciate the beauty in our own lives. -- Cindy La Ferle, author of WRITING HOME.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on January 17, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Sue Monk Kidd provided one of my favorite novels in recent years, with "The Secret Life of Bees." She wrote with grace, spiritual symbolism, and an embracing of life's offerings, good and bad. Here, in "Firstlight," she shows those same abilities with the written word.

Collected from early inspirational writings, particularly those published in Guideposts magazine, these chapters reflect a lifelong journey of discovery. Kidd has been a nurse, a mother, a wife, and a writer, and these experiences have not only shaped her, they've brought about moments of clarity and widsom through seemingly mundane things. Kidd has a crisp, yet smooth, style that allows the lessons of life to jump from the pages. She finds examples of God's love and mercy in homeless people, butterflies, storms, and lightning bugs.

For those of us who enjoy the raw, in-your-face honesty of an Anne Lamott, "Firstlight" can seem a bit saccharine at times. There is very little time given to the struggles and questions of life, althought Kidd does admit to having them. Being a true Southerner, she chooses to focus on the good, packaging the thorny questions in soft cushiony thoughts. All in all, this is a great contemplative book. Not so deep as to be unfathomable, but rich enough to be mulled over for days.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on November 8, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Kidd's early writings are a sweet read. While there is nothing earth- shatteringly new in this book, it is still a lovely book of personal stories by the author that the reader can savor, one story at a time. The book serves as a reminder that we can each find joy, love, peace and spirituality in all things in life.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Format: Hardcover
Fans of the author of The Secret Life of Bees will love this book. A great insight into Kidd as she shares her early writings and musings about her spiritual life.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on June 5, 2007
Format: Hardcover
In a word, this book is inspirational. The tone is evident even in the book's packaging: its beach-sunrise jacket photo and its airy page design. If you need an emotional lift --- or know someone who does --- FIRSTLIGHT will provide it.

Over her writing career of nearly 30 years, Sue Monk Kidd has endeared herself to two audiences. First, to readers of Guideposts magazine and devotionals, for which she wrote very concrete, first-person, anecdotal narratives. A sample: "Late one winter night it snows in South Carolina. When the sun comes up, a dazzling white quilt lays across our small backyard.

" 'Oh-h-h, Mommy.' In the bedroom both children cling to the windowsill speechless. It is their first snow..."

In memoirs published from 1988 to 1997, her spiritual journey reflected a more contemplative outlook and eventually a feminist theology that endeared a different readership. Then her fiction (THE SECRET LIFE OF BEES and THE MERMAID CHAIR) turned her and her unorthodox characters into conversational centerpieces all around town, coast to coast.

Now here's the trick. Can this new collection of "early writings" bridge her two audiences? I say yes, assuming a reader is not scouring for theological tenets but for feel-good inspiration that encourages faith in a slightly vague Divine.

Many of the untitled selections within the book's 13 chapters are from Guideposts publications, anecdotes about childhood, motherhood, marriage and Sue's early nursing career. But it seems that most of the chapter topics (with titles such as "Awareness," "Solitude," "Simplicity of Spirit" and "Gracious Space") are grounded in essays that are more reflective than anecdotal. A sample from the first chapter, titled "The Crucible of Story": "The inner story creates identity, transforming our vision of who we are. Creating story is an act of self-knowing...Knowing who I am hinges on remembering who I have been in the past and embracing the hope of who I may be in the future."

It's a different kind of writing --- less personal, less concrete. But the complementary styles work well together, the anecdotes illustrating the reflective points.

In the introduction, Sue explains how she warmed up to the idea of compiling these writings that are foundational to her spiritual and literary journey. At first she was hesitant: "I wanted to be read and known for who I am now." But eventually: "Opening myself to the creation of this book, so aptly titled FIRSTLIGHT, became an unexpected act of reclamation...a bridge...a gift of reunion."

My favorite piece in the book is a short "Availability" anecdote, recounting a visit to a homeless shelter and Sue's conversation with James, a resident who eagerly shows her his "book" --- a scrapbook featuring worthless incidentals (a restaurant napkin, a calendar, a few autographs) that "represented James's list of blessings. Blessings he read and reread."

Just as you, or I, might read and reread Sue Monk Kidd's FIRSTLIGHT.

--- Reviewed by Evelyn Bence
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on November 29, 2006
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
I've read Sue Monk Kidd's fiction, and I did like them. I had been familiar with her from her early days with Guideposts magazine. The writing in this book, however, leaves me breathless. It is full of beauty and wonder and gratitude. She weaves words into a beautiful bouquet.

It is no surprise she refers to Mary Oliver, a poet who has a love affair with life, and gratitude for each leaf and passing breeze.

This book will warm your heart from the inside out, make you more aware of the beauty around you, and help to awaken the Mystery all over again. As she says, it will renew your love affair with life.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on February 28, 2008
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
Sue Monk Kidd's work continues to delight. Her short, honest, writings show her to be attentive to the moment as well as to the world around her. This book would be a start to a group discussion for people seeking to live mindful, but interactive, lives. She enjoys the spiritual life of monks without having taken their vows. Readers will gain much from this collection of essays and observations.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on December 27, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Sue Monk Kidd is a very contemplative person who writes from the heart with beautiful and touching prose. This book contains some of her early writings which she has gently edited. At first she was reluctant to republish her earlier work, feeling that she has evolved to a new place in the ensuing years. However, she later decided that these works were part of her spiritual journey and she enjoyed retracing her literary and contemplative roots. Her stories begin with everyday occurrences from her life as a wife, mother, and nurse, but swell to a crescendo as she analyzes them in light of her spiritual beliefs and her willingness to open herself to "aha" moments of revelation and truth. She divides her book into timeless topics such as The Sacred Ordinary, Availabilty, and Compassion. She manages to prick the reader's conscience and yet instill hope for better days to come. Her work is always a refreshing breeze in a too-busy world.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on October 20, 2008
Format: Paperback
With her first novel recently made into a major motion picture, Sue Monk Kidd will become more widely known, even to non-readers (do such people really exist?). Therefore, I think it is important for those who loved THE SECRET LIFE OF BEES and THE MERMAID CHAIR to peer into the soul of the author through "notes at random" musings compiled into one neat volume.

Maybe FIRSTLIGHT would not have struck such a chord if I hadn't read it in waiting areas of a Catholic hospital. Ms. Kidd's early memories of special moments with her mother were particularly touching (real lessons for parents here), and I was blown away by the true story of a dogwood tree blooming in September as a healing sign. FIRSTLIGHT provided more than one Kleenex moment and more than a hundred inspirations.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on June 5, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I just purchased this title for a friend who is retiring. The book is full of uplifting and thought-provoking essays and personal experiences that will beg to be read over and over. I was surprised to learn that Sue Monk Kidd (Secret Life of Bees and Mermaid's Chair)wrote for Guidepost Magazine, and this is a compilation of many of those selections.
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