Saturday, October 23, 2010

book review: "bittersweet" by shauna niequist

In the prologue, Shauna explains her thoughts on the title for this book. “Bittersweet is the idea that in all things there is both something broken and something beautiful, that there is a sliver of lightness on even the darkest of nights, a shadow of hope in every heartbreak and that rejoicing is no less rich when it contains a splinter of sadness.” Reading through the book, you learn about moments where she experienced heartache and also pockets of “life is perfect” at just that moment. She talks about grace and how she has a hard time bestowing it upon others though she readily admits to needing it herself. “If arithmetic is numbers, and if algebra is numbers and letters, then grace is numbers, letters, sounds, and tears, feelings and dreams. Grace is smashing the calculator and using all the broken buttons and pieces to make a mosaic. Grace isn’t about having a second chance; grace is having so many chances that you could use them through all eternity and never come up empty. It’s when you finally realize that the other shoe isn’t going to drop, ever. It’s the moment when you feel as precious and handmade as every star, when you feel, finally, at home for the very first time.” She talks about how she faced not one but two miscarriages, the second being doubly hard to deal with because she had been pregnant with twins. She talks about the rough spot she and her husband went through in their marriage and how thankful she is they were able to recover from it. At one point she says, “when things fall apart, the broken places allow all sorts of things to enter and one of them is the presence of God.” She explains the importance of women having other women in their lives – how much those relationships have meant to her. “Bittersweet” is a mosaic of her life experiences all pointing to her belief that we need both in our lives. “…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…”

I liked Shauna’s style of writing. While at times it was hard for me to follow what time in her life she was referring to (she jumped around with each chapter), I liked the “realness” in her writing. She wrote as though she was talking instead of trying to use big words and make everything come across as neat and tidy. What struck a cord with me was her chapter titled “twenty-five.” Having just turned twenty-five, I was able to instantly identify with her. The chapter was her giving advice regarding things she learned from that period in her life. One thing that stuck out to me regarded decisions made during this time. “Some of the most life-shaping decisions you make in this season will be about walking away from good-enough, in search of can’t-live-without.” My absolute favorite line from the book was about her love of Christmas. She talked about buying the exact same scarf for several of her girl friends and how she liked the idea of them all living in different places but wearing the same scarf. She talked about thoroughly enjoying Christmas despite what we may be going through. “And I hope that someone who loves you gives you a really cute scarf.” When someone is honest in their writing, allowing you a glimpse into their life, you’re able to connect with them and that’s what Shauna has done.

I received a free copy of this book from Zondervan and was not required to write a positive review. For more on this book, go to

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