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Review: Bittersweet

Painful stories point souls to the cross.

Life can be a series of trials mixed with moments of hope and happiness if we are willing to see — and taste — that the Lord is good.

Bittersweet: Thoughts on Change, Grace and Learning the Hard Way.”Shauna Niequist candidly but eloquently shares her own personal trials in “Bittersweet: Thoughts on Change, Grace and Learning the Hard Way.” The author of titles including “Cold Tangerines: Celebrating the Extraordinary Nature of Everyday Life” and the newly released “Present Over Perfect: Leaving Behind Frantic for a Simpler, More Soulful Way of Living” is a self-described bookworm, beach bum and passionate gatherer of people around the table.

After facing a particularly rough season of loss and change, she chose to write essays about some of these moments in her life — instead of keeping her pain and sorrow to herself. These essays are the foundation of “Bittersweet.”


From the pain of job loss, to the stress of selling a home and moving across state lines, to the heartache of infertility and miscarriage, Niequist shares her stories in hopes that we not only feel less alone, but also that we will realize all of life is full of bitter and sweet moments.

It takes both of these extremes to bring about growth and character, she writes. Being stuck in the middle of one of these tough seasons of life can seem lonely and cruel, but if we can hold on to God’s promise and find the sweet moments among the bitter, we can experience hope and hang on just a little bit longer.

Katie IsenbergSince the author and I are about the same age — and in the same stage of life — I found her book deeply relatable and inspiring. But I don’t think you have to be a woman in your 30s to take something very deep and real away from this book.

We all have seen the highs and lows that come with being human. When we can share these moments with others — “rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn,” as we read in Romans 12:15 — then we can begin to be that community of Christians that God intended us to be. If we are vulnerable and willing to share our stories of pain with others, Neiquist writes, God can open doors to share the bigger stories of his love for all mankind. I couldn’t agree more.

What makes “Bittersweet” especially meaningful is its timing. Niequist doesn’t wait to share her stories until years later, when she can look back and easily see lessons learned. Instead, she’s raw and honest about how she feels in the moment — as she lives through the pain.

Obviously, the book has an inspirational ending, but it doesn’t feel forced. Niequest acknowledges that she continues to struggle with the trials she writes about.

To me, this shows that life never will be neatly wrapped with a bow on top. Continually, we experience change, loss, hardships. Realizing that is as important a lesson as any.

This is the first book I’ve read by Niequist, and I’m eager to get my hands on more — including “Savor: Living Abundantly Where You Are, As You Are,” in which she discusses how she enjoys combining spirituality with the gathering of friends around a table. (She even includes recipes for faith-filled foodies.)
Meanwhile, I’m inspired by “Bittersweet’s” flavor of powerful, honest storytelling.

KATIE ISENBERG and her family worship with the Mayfair Church of Christ in Oklahoma City. She writes for Oklahoma City Moms Blog and a personal blog, “Strawberry Ruckus,” at ryanandkatie.blogspot.com.

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