Here’s a book to pack in your beach bag—or just curl up with at home when your kids are napping. Bittersweet: Thoughts on Change, Grace, and Learning the Hard Way, by Shauna Niequist. It’s a great “snatch book,” as each chapter stands alone (almost like a blog post), so you can savor it bit by bit as you have time.
I loved Shauna’s previous book, Cold Tangerines. But this one is even better. Maybe it’s simply because she has lived longer. Shauna writes out of her life. And Bittersweet is written out of a season in her life that has been just that. A time of growth and accomplishment and fulfillment as a woman, a wife, a writer, and now a mother. But also a time of great change, deep loss, and bitter disappointment.
How do we make sense of such a life? It’s an important question to ask, because we will all live in such a season—if not now, then sooner or later. When Shauna writes of finding grace and forgiveness and healing and hope—even joy—amidst hardness and heartache and barrenness, her voice rings true.
The book is also—trust me—a fun read. The cover alone will get you. Check it out and you’ll see what I mean. When I gave the book to my daughter, her two year-old went for it immediately, exclaiming, “Mmmmm! Chocolate!” (A girl after my own heart, that child!) You foodies will love how Shauna describes her journey in terms of memorable meals. She loves to cook as much as she loves to write, and this is a delicious read.
But the book is more than that. All mothers will identify with Shauna’s reflections on motherhood. There’s such joy when she writes about her son, Henry. And such wisdom in her call for community with other moms, rather than comparison and competition. And her pleas for older, wiser experienced moms in her life. Of course, you know what I was thinking: “That’s just why we have Mom to Mom!”
On a personal level, I was deeply moved by the chapters dealing with miscarriage and infertility and loss: “Heartbeat,” What Might Have Been,” and “On Crying in the Bathroom.” Having personally experienced the same kind of miscarriage Shauna had, it was “déjà vu” for me. But it is important reading for all mothers—not only for those who have experienced loss, but also for those who want to walk well alongside another on this journey.
On a very practical level, the chapter “Things I Don’t Do” is worth the price of the book. Shauna’s cure for the “Do Everything Better” syndrome is must-reading for every one of us recovering-perfectionist moms!
Ultimately, Bittersweet points readers to God. As Shauna puts it:”My life is a story about God and what He does in a human heart.” (p. 240) It’s a story worth reading!