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January 29, 2011 / MrsH

Book Review: Bittersweet

I recently finished the lovely book Bittersweet: by Shauna Niequist.  I loved it.  The book is structured in an unusual way, with brief chapters that each detail one specific event or a specific idea.  It’s not chronological but flows, weaving the theme of “bittersweet” throughout the book, illustrating and describing it from every possible angle.  “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.”  Ideas are revisited and expanded upon, and Niequist draws meaning out of a staggeringly difficult time of life.

This is the type of book that I never wanted to end.  The writing is honest and conversational, like a conversation with a close friend.  I felt wiser just reading it and am strongly contemplating purchasing my own copy so I can highlight and bookmark it to my heart’s content.  Niequist’s ability to hold both the devastating realities of life and beautiful moments, and to recognize them both at the same time, has been eye-opening to me, beginning to notice the bittersweet moments in my own life.

A favorite section was where Niequist wrote on her to-do list the following: “Do. Everything. Better.”  Her writings are direct and relatable.  Later she writes: “Deciding what I wanted wasn’t that hard. But deciding what I’m willing to give up for those things is like yoga for your superego, stretching and pushing and ultimately healing that nasty little person inside of you who exists only for what people think.”  I’m currently working on my own list of things that I’m willing to give up.  She’s right, it’s hard work.

I have recommended this book to a wide variety of women friends for a wide variety of reasons.  I recognized myself and many of my friends in her writing.  Mostly, I love her illustrations and thoughts on the topic of grace.  “I used to think that the ability to turn back time would be the greatest possible gift, so that I could undo all the things I wish I hadn’t done. But grace is an even better gift, because it allows me to do more than just erase; it allows me to become more than I was when I did those things.”

The final realization that sums it all up: “The most bittersweet season of my life so far is still life, still beautiful, still sparkling with celebration. There is no one or the other, as deperately as I want that to be true. This season wasn’t bittersweet. Life itself is bittersweet. There’s always life and death, always beauty and blood.”

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