Sunday, February 15, 2015

Book Review: Bittersweet

Whatever it is you wish to write, whether it be young adult novels or women's fiction or historical fiction, the general advice is to read as extensively as possible in that particular genre so that you can discern whether your writing is up to snuff. Thus, in the interest of working on a memoir, I am on a campaign to read more memoirs. Shauna Niequist is enjoying quite a buzz of publicity these days in the circles of Christian women. Many of my Facebook friends mention her as a favorite author.

I don't usually like to read books out of order and I probably should have picked up her first memoir before attempting the second, but I didn't have access to the first, so I plunged ahead with her second memoir, Bittersweet. At the very outset, I noticed the endorsement inside the front cover and was shocked to learn that she is the daughter of the prominent pastor of the Willow Creek Church, Bill Hybels. This made me skeptical, at first, because there's this tendency to question whether an author was published by association or by merit. After reading her writing, I would fall on the side of merit (although it couldn't have hurt to have the connections - wink).

While this didn't exactly feel like a memoir (it felt more like a package of personal essays tied together with a bow of grace), it certainly bore out the wisdom of taking personal experiences and providing the reader with the answer to that age old question of "so what?" I think Niequist does an excellent job of tying all the parts (which sometimes feel disjointed) together for the wider picture and the spiritual take-away. Her words are rich and full of flavor. She paints scenes well. Moreover, even though this was a second memoir, it easily stands alone on its own feet.

If I had to sum up the book, I would say that this book tells of a difficult season in Niequist's life and the lesson she learned. That lesson is that God allows us to experience both the bitter and the sweet of things. And we need both the bitter and the sweet. I'm guessing this book appeals most to young women in their twenties and thirties who are struggling with young families and job changes and fitting into their communities. There was a very strong emphasis on food and dinner parties (something I couldn't relate to) and the importance of friendship (which instead of encouraging me, merely seemed to depress me as I read of all her opportunities for community). I could fully relate to her experience with miscarriage (having been there myself before), and was happy to discover that she has since had another son to round out their family and ease some of the emptiness left by the lost babies. It was a blessing to get inside her heart and mind and view her life experiences through the lens of grace and faith. As Lorilee Craker's endorsement of the book proclaims, "In every page, the bitter and the sweet converge, carrying truth, hope, and redemption." God will, indeed, redeem our days (the good and the bad).

No comments: