by Shauna Niequist
‘It’s 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. Bittersweet is courageous, gutsy, audacious, earthy.’
‘This is what I’ve come to believe about change: it’s good, in the way that childbirth is good, and heartbreak is good, and failure is good. By that I mean that it’s incredibly painful, exponentially more so if you fight it, and also that it has the potential to open you up, to open life up, to deliver you right into the palm of God’s hand, which is where you wanted to be all long, except that you were too busy pushing and pulling your life into exactly what you thought it should be.’
‘I’ve learned the hard way that change is one of God’s greatest gifts, and most useful tools. Change can push us, pull us, rebuke and remake us. It can show us who we’ve become, in the worst ways, and also in the best ways. I’ve learned that it’s not something to run away from, as though we could, and that in many cases, change is a function of God’s graciousness, not life’s cruelty.’
Niequist, a keen observer of life with a lyrical voice, writes with the characteristic warmth and honesty of a dear friend: always engaging, sometimes challenging, but always with a kind heart. You will find Bittersweet savory reading, indeed.
‘This is the work I’m doing now, and the work I invite you into: when life is sweet, say thank you, and celebrate. And when life is bitter, say thank you, and grow.’ (Goodreads)
Moving on from “the move” —
The author had also experienced other things like loss in the form of miscarriage, so devastating, and loss of the geographic closeness of friendships as friends moved away, as she moved away. She writes about her struggles and apprehension with finding closure in these areas, and her words are beautiful.
I began to feel, as I read, that there was someone here that understood some of the things that I know to be true, on at least some level. True, I haven’t experienced the same things as this author but I feel grief and despair and hope and reluctance and everything else that she feels in the same way, except with regard to my own life issues. I can relate to her stories, even if I haven’t experienced them, because she has made them relatable. She has made them relatable by incorporating bits of life into them.
It’s amazing how it happens, really, that we can find comfort in the words of other people. I do this so often in fictionalized stories and I love to tell you all about this. But there is something so very different about being able to picture another someone that is trying to sell a home that she is no longer living in while having to also make massive repairs on it that she will never get to enjoy, the financial strain of it. To read about how she was intentional about trying to not let these things strain her marriage, but oh my how life’s stresses did anyway, and here’s how we were even more intentional about getting things back on course. I read the accounts from the author’s experiences, I read about the things that helped her and the things that did not help her, about the things that she realized along the way, and the ways she prayed and changed her routines, AND THIS HAS HELPED ME.
*NOTE: You do not actually have to be going through anything hard or any “changes” at all to enjoy this book. It is really a great book to go into if you just want to read it and enjoy the author’s work. It just worked well for me because I identify with the author and I love that.
I really think that I’m living in the hardest time of my life right now, the most stressful time. This isn’t the worst thing ever, it isn’t a bad thing at all really. It’s hard, yes. But I’ll be fine. It’s just some icky things mixed in with the good, you guys. That’s what Bittersweet is about. I appreciate that this author chose to document her bittersweet times because this has comforted me.
And her words are lovely, they really are. This lady has a great knack for writing and telling stories. A teensy bit repetitive at times, but that’s okay. She is gifted in essay-writing, and was able to make me smile and even chuckle while I also clutched at my heart for what she had experienced in her life. Shauna sort of makes the point that life is full of the good mixed with the bad, and it’s okay to experience all of it, to feel each way when life throws these bittersweet moments at us.
You guys, I highlighted so many things. So many quotes that I want to remember because I want to carve them on my heart and also so many because they just sound pretty. There are some non-fiction books that I read because I want to feel challenged to better myself, and while I wanted to come out better on the other side of this book, what I really wanted was to find the grace to feel the bad and the good and everything in between when I’m feeling the tough stuff in life, because it is there – thrown in when you least expect it. That goal was achieved, and I am thankful.
Bittersweet by Shauna Niequist is a book that I will read again. Actually, I would love a print copy so I can mark it up and fold pages over, because this is how I end up treating the non-fictions books that I own, the ones that make me feel this way, the ones that I come to over and over to feel better or to learn things. I’ve seen that this author has written some other books, a happier book that appears to be in a style similar to this one and also some cookbook and devotional-type books. I’d love to get my hands on them all.
Other titles by this author: