Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Bittersweet by Shauna Niequist, review and giveaway

Shauna Niequist’s book, Bittersweet: Thoughts on Change, Grace and Learning the Hard Way, published by Zondervan, was a great excuse to ignore the kids and other responsibilities for a day or two and sit on my duff and read. Several reviews of Niequist’s 2nd book (1st book, Cold Tangerines: Celebrating the Extraordinary Nature of Everyday Life) note that by the end of the book the reader feels like a new friendship with the author has been formed. I could not agree more. The wording; the ease and comfort and lightness even in the midst of difficult subject matter, is Bittersweet’s resounding strength.

I was pleased to see Niequist focus on the duality of life often overlooked in our American Christian sub-culture; the bitter and the sweet.

“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, what helps us earn the lines on our faces and the calluses on our hands. Sweet is nice enough, but bittersweet is beautiful, nuanced, full of depth and complexity.” –Page 11, Bittersweet

Many times Christian books give a quick wink and nod to struggles. “Pray harder! Pray more! Rejoice always! Busy yourself with Christian activities!” While all these things (i.e. praise and prayer and involvement in a local community of believers) are important, they don’t always allow needed space for a person to sit in the mess. God doesn’t promise that if we follow a strict check-list we won’t hurt. Suffering can be wasted because people are trying to get over and through trials quickly.

Shauna is brave. She writes about the underbelly of her life; the bottom falling out of a perfect job, infertility, rejection, struggle with weight, miscarriage. Instead of scurrying around like a hamster trying to feel better in the midst of pain, she slowed down and tried to learn the lessons God had for her. It was refreshing to read about the purpose and importance of struggles.

“The question is not, will my life be easy or will my heart break? But rather, when my heart breaks, will I choose to grow? – Page 233, Bittersweet

There are truthful nuggets like this throughout the book. Once in a while I wanted Shauna to dig a bit deeper and to explore a certain thought or idea more. Overall, though, I enjoyed Bittersweet. It’s the kind of book Christians need. It’s the kind of book I want to read. It’s the type of honesty I want to write.

Need a last minute Christmas gift for a friend? I recommend you check out Bittersweet.

In that vein, Pocket Lint is having its first giveaway! Yay! Want to play and get a chance to win a signed copy of Bittersweet from Shauna?

Here’s what you need to do:

I’ll announce a winner next week!

Merry Christmas!

Shauna Niequist is the author of Cold Tangerines: Celebrating the Extraordinary Nature of Everyday Life. Her second book, Bittersweet: Thoughts on Change, Grace, and Learning the Hard Way, was released last summer. She lives outside Chicago with her husband Aaron and their son Henry. She studied English and French literature at Westmont College in Santa Barbara, and worked at Willow Creek for five years and at Mars Hill in Grand Rapids for three years. Shauna loves to travel, eat, read and host dinner parties.

Thank you Shauna, for the lovely book!


  1. Great review! I just added this to my Goodreads To-Read shelf! :)

    I've been using the term bittersweet so much lately (in fact, it's the title of a blog post I am working on!) as I transition jobs. I am so happy to be moving on in my professional development, but at the same time it is difficult and a little sad to be saying goodbye to the clients I've worked with over the past few years, as well as my wonderful family of coworkers. But that is what life is about, right? We must let go of parts of ourselves in order to let the new, improved us's out!

  2. Oh! And now I am following you on Twitter! :)

  3. Seems LIFE is always bittersweet. Right now, it's my son. He's 19, in college full-time, and spending less and less time at home. I expect this to continue as he transitions out.

  4. So much of life is bittersweet. Last night our two oldest sons attended a seminar on RAD with us. They are so good with our daughter and it was good for them to understand more about why she acts the way she does. The bitter with the sweet.

  5. I have been pregnant six times, lost three to early miscarriage and one to a developmental defect at 22 weeks. The two we have bring so much joy, yet the due dates can't pass without the bite of disappointed dreams. Each time someone comments that we have our girl and our boy and are we done. I am struck again that while we look like the all-american family, I will always look at life with arms longing for those I haven't met. Yes, it is bittersweet that makes life beautiful.

  6. My bittersweet moment this year was the arrival of my son after 2 miscarriages and 4 years of crying out to my heavenly father,God blessed us with a special needs child as well who at first like yourself I thought I was unable to handle.But God is doing a new thing and making me see the joy in His perfect will.Joshua may be hearing impaired but I know that he will grow up to be a happy healthy boy who Loves Jesus and that is what matters to this mama's heart.


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