Review | Bittersweet by Shauna Niequist

Posted February 22, 2015 by Asheley in review, Uncategorized / 1 Comment

Bittersweet: Thoughts on Change, Grace, and Learning the Hard Way 
by Shauna Niequist 

Published by Zondervan
Publish Date: July 14, 2010
Source: Bought
Find it here:  Goodreads / Amazon 

‘The idea of bittersweet is changing the way I live, unraveling and re-weaving the way I understand life. Bittersweet is the idea that in all things there is both something broken and something beautiful, that there is a moment of lightness on even the darkest of nights, a shadow of hope in every heartbreak, and that rejoicing is no less rich even when it contains a splinter of sadness.’ 

‘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) 
Bittersweet by Shauna Niequist 

My Thoughts:  I was so fortunate to have stumbled upon Bittersweet by Shauna Niequist when I did. I actually found this book during a sale for Kindle books a couple of weeks ago, and this was at a time when I felt like I was kind of crumbly under the weight of so many different things going on in my life. I’m absolutely one of those people that – when there is something specific in my life that is an issue, I find a book to read that tackles that subject. I love non-fiction books, I love reading about things that challenge me, books that can teach me things, things that are real. 

Author Shauna Niequist penned Bittersweet as a set of short essays about various things that occurred in her life, changes in her life. Prior to the release of this book, she had experienced a large move back to her home city and this was something that was stressful for her family – there was a change in jobs, and there was a sense of loss in moving away from a city she loved but also a sense of joy at moving closer to family. This is such a bittersweet and mixed-up feeling – I know it, because I’m feeling the same feeling right now. With a change like this is the loss of the geographic closeness of the relationships from the previous city, which is like a big empty void. There is also a time of confusion and adjustment while you try to figure out where your place will be in your new city (again, I know this). Because this move has been sort of an over-riding theme in my life throughout the past year, and has had its hand on everything I’ve done, everywhere I’ve been, everything I’ve bought or not bought, EVERYTHING EVERYTHING – I feel a little bit like I could be this author’s best friend or at least her family member. I feel like I know her that well. (I don’t, okay? I’m not weird or anything like that. It’s just nice to read about someone going through something like me. That’s all.) This author also lived in a temporary place until she could get her family settled, which is THE THING. It is THE THING. Everything is temporary right now, and this is a change. I need to learn to roll with this and give myself grace for both loving it and hating it, and this is one reason why this book spoke to me so much. 

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. 


Bittersweet will appeal to fans of:

Non-fiction, Christian 

Bittersweet by Shauna Niequist
is currently available for purchase.


Other titles by this author: 


About Asheley

Asheley is a Southern girl. She loves Carolina blue skies, Ben & Jerry's ice cream, and NC craft beer. She loves all things history but prefers books over everything.

You can find her somewhere in North Carolina, daydreaming about the ocean.

Find Asheley on Litsy @intothehallofbooks!


One response to “Review | Bittersweet by Shauna Niequist

  1. What a great review and what an interesting-sounding book. I've been thinking a lot recently about social media and how often we assume that others' lives are more perfect than they actually are. I'm sorry that you're going through a tough time. I do think there are some things no one should have to go through, but I also agree that surviving challenges and periods of difficulty and sadness and confusion can make you a stronger and more resilient person — and someone more able to appreciate the times in life that aren't stressful…

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