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

Zondervan / 2010 / Hardcover

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Product Description

Change can be frightening or exhilarating, but it's always challenging---and educational. Drawing on her own recent experience of pain and chaos, Niequist explores nuggets of wisdom and growth she learned the hard way---through loss and transition. Her warm, lyrical reflections will help you perceive the blessings of change in your own life.

Product Information

Format: Hardcover
Number of Pages: 224
Vendor: Zondervan
Publication Date: 2010
Dimensions: 8.50 X 5.50 (inches)
ISBN: 0310328160
ISBN-13: 9780310328162
Availability: In Stock

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Publisher's Description

“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.”

Author Bio

Shauna Niequist is the author of Bread & Wine, Cold Tangerines and Bittersweet. Shauna grew up in Barrington, Illinois, and then studied English and French literature at Westmont College in Santa Barbara. As an author and blogger, Shauna writes about the beautiful and broken moments of everyday life---friendship, family, faith, food, marriage, love, babies, books, celebration, heartache, and all the other things that shape us, delight us, and reveal to us the heart of God. Shauna is married to Aaron, who is a pianist and songwriter. Aaron is a worship leader at Willow Creek and is recording a project called A New Liturgy. Aaron and Shauna live outside Chicago with their sons, Henry and Mac.

 

Publisher's Weekly

Niequist (Cold Tangerines) returns with an often humorous and always contemplative series of personal essays on bittersweet experiences, illustrating through her own life that “rejoicing is no less rich even when it contains a splinter of sadness.” Spiritually, the book bravely sets out to decipher the paradoxically co-dependent nature of happiness and grief. But Niequist’s title should not be seen as simply a convenient theological metaphor; i t is also a literary device. Impressively, many of Niequist’s perfectly concocted chapters weave in culinary themes, evoking the sensory, physical experience of the bittersweet along with the spiritual sense of it. When writing of deep friendship and the loss that sometimes accompanies it, her narrative often revolves around a dinner table, a cooking club, or a farmer’s market. Niequist’s ability to describe the sensation of eating a peppery arugula salad punctuated with sweet blueberries is just as evocative as her ability to express the intricacies of love, loss, hope, and doubt. Readers of all faiths will find this book courageous, sincere, poetic, and profound. There’s nothing bitter in this sweet treat of a spiritual memoir. (July)Copyright 2010 Reed Business Information.

Editorial Reviews

Niequist (Cold Tangerines) returns with an often humorous and always contemplative series of personal essays on bittersweet experiences, illustrating through her own life that 'rejoicing is no less rich even when it contains a splinter of sadness.' Spiritually, the book bravely sets out to decipher the paradoxically co-dependent nature of happiness and grief. But Niequist's title should not be seen as simply a convenient theological metaphor; it is also a literary device. Impressively, many of Niequist's perfectly concocted chapters weave in culinary themes, evoking the sensory, physical experience of the bittersweet along with the spiritual sense of it. When writing of deep friendship and the loss that sometimes accompanies it, her narrative often revolves around a dinner table, a cooking club, or a farmer's market. Niequist's ability to describe the sensation of eating a peppery arugula salad punctuated with sweet blueberries is just as evocative as her ability to express the intricacies of love, loss, hope, and doubt. Readers of all faiths will find this book courageous, sincere, poetic, and profound. There's nothing bitter in this sweet treat of a spiritual memoir. (July) -- Publishers Weekly, starred review (Publishers Weekly )
Writing with another tasty theme in mind, Niequist (Cold Tangerines) sees bittersweetness as 'the idea that in all things there is both something broken and something beautiful, that there is a sliver of lightness on even the darkest of nights, a shadow of hope in every heartbreak.' In Bittersweet: Thoughts on Change, Grace, and Learning the Hard Way, she shines light in that darkness, thanks to her own journey through change and heartbreak and questions and doubt, through her struggle to find good and God in the messiness of life. Niequist and her husband faced job changes, a move and miscarriages, all rendered here in the smooth language and deep honesty that defines her style as a writer. She's honest, too, about the good things---food, friends, family. Her short essays allow a glimpse into her life, but, more importantly, her heart. Readers searching for an honest look at the bitter and sweet of life will find it here; those looking for fine writing and God in the day to day will experience that here as well.
This very personal book offers a modest, gentle, and, yes, bittersweet reflection on life and life-changing moments. In a collection of interweaving essays, Niequist provides “an ode to all things bittersweet, to life at the edges, a love letter to what change can do in us.” To Niequist, change is a good thing even if “incredibly painful.“ In a short period of time, she became pregnant, lost a job she loved, had a baby, and wrote a book. She didn’t lose her faith as much as lost track of it. These short pieces capture moments when her world seemed to be spiraling out of control. Stunned by the loss of her beloved grandmother, she discovers that the best way to honor her life is to live in simplicity and kindness. Bittersweet is full of such small but important lessons of daily living, about how to live life again “after the brokenness.” Niequist firmly believes that it is the stories of ordinary people that can make a difference in people’s lives. “There is nothing small or inconsequential about our stories,” she concludes. “There is, in fact, nothing bigger.”
BITTERSWEET: THOUGHTS ON CHANGE, GRACE, AND LEARNING THE HARD WAY provides an outstanding survey which maintains that to live a balanced life, we need both the bitter and the sweet. Bittersweet contains depth and complexity: it's offered in change and in recognition of spiritual gifts, and is presented here as a positive, moving force in any life.

Product Reviews

4 Stars Out Of 5
4 out of 5
(2)
(2)
(0)
(1)
(0)
Quality:
4.3 out Of 5
(4.3 out of 5)
Value:
4.5 out Of 5
(4.5 out of 5)
Meets Expectations:
4.3 out Of 5
(4.3 out of 5)
75%
of customers would recommend this product to a friend.
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  1. slm0414
    Chicago, IL
    Age: 25-34
    Gender: female
    2 Stars Out Of 5
    Not what I expected
    February 2, 2012
    slm0414
    Chicago, IL
    Age: 25-34
    Gender: female
    Quality: 3
    Value: 3
    Meets Expectations: 3
    I didn't even finish the book because I was too disappointed in it. I really just did not like it. I don't like the way Shauna writes, it seems somewhat choppy to me. No scripture references. I guess, I don't really get the point of this book. It didn't motivate me, it didn't move me, and overall I found it a bit boring. It is basically a bunch of short stories of Shauna's life.
  2. Dana
    Spicer, MN
    Age: 35-44
    Gender: female
    5 Stars Out Of 5
    Captivating
    January 20, 2011
    Dana
    Spicer, MN
    Age: 35-44
    Gender: female
    Quality: 5
    Value: 5
    Meets Expectations: 5
    I enjoyed reading Bittersweet & can't wait to get a couple copies for my close friends.
  3. iamsarahjoy
    Malaysia
    Age: 25-34
    Gender: female
    5 Stars Out Of 5
    This book is worth re-reading many times over!
    December 20, 2010
    iamsarahjoy
    Malaysia
    Age: 25-34
    Gender: female
    Quality: 5
    Value: 5
    Meets Expectations: 5
    Every now and again I come across someone's blog or book or an article that makes me wish I lived in their town and have the privilege of being their friend. Shauna Niequist is now one of them.

    I've been reading her latest book, Bittersweet and in it I've discovered treasure upon treasure which makes me want to tear out entire pages, fold them up and keep them in my purse for a quick recap whenever I find time. Bittersweet really is like a collection of blog posts or essays and at the end of each and every essay (chapter), I've found myself wishing I could leave a comment, or type out the entire essay and post it on Facebook so to share with everyone else like I'd just discovered lost treasure beneath the ocean. I've had to read it slowly in order to savour every word and allow it to sink it and resonate through.

    The way Shauna writes is so raw and real; so much that it feels like I've had the privilege of sitting across her, having lots of dinners while sharing stories at her scarred table. She doesn't pretend to have it all figured out, neither does she speak in 'Christianese' or give me a 'how-to' lecture but all the while making sure she reminds me how important it is to keep God, the church and families close. (Oh, they would've been really awesome dinners!)

    Perhaps it's the way she has dealt with the rough patches, pain and loss that I could identify with, or maybe it's the fact that I could relate to the fact that she isn't as 'perfect' as you'd expect a pastors kid to be, or maybe its the fact that she loves food, or even that she struggles with saying "No" whilst trying to do everything and more than one could possibly fit into 24 hours. All this making me constantly want to tweet her and say, "OMG, ME TOO!!!" This is just to say; I've learnt so much from this book and I'd definitely be re-reading it many times over!
  4. Widsith
    4 Stars Out Of 5
    I'm a beautiful mess, and so are you. Let's eat!
    October 17, 2010
    Widsith
    Quality: 4
    Value: 5
    Meets Expectations: 4
    "Bittersweet: Thoughts on change, grace, and learning the hard way" by Shauna Niequist was really quite moving. It's a series of semi-autobiographical/motivational chapters that touch on pain and the beauty we can find in it. Shauna is quite the artist, I found, given the way she takes experiences of brokenness that are common to many of us, sketching in honest detail why they hurt us so much, and then lingering on the way pain and death intertwine with beauty and new life. Imagine a painting of a flower pot that's been knocked over by some kind of turbulence, and is now laying on its side amidst scattered shards and soil. Looking more closely, you notice that the flower has managed to take root and even flourish where it had spilled onto the ground. That's pretty much how this book has impacted me.

    Shauna has an honest, down-to-earth way of sharing her own stories about heartache, loss, and troubles that resonate with many of us. There's lots to relate to in this book: The pain of losing a child, the sorrow of losing a grandparent, the difficuly of keeping a marriage healthy during hard times, the loneliness one feels when friends and acquaintances remain silent and distant during your time of grief. But there's plenty of fun and light-hearted stuff in here too: Shauna draws the reader in with meaningful, well-written stories, and unique insights on the joys of cooking, traveling, weddings, and quality time with friends and family.

    It's definitely a book for women, as it deals a lot with issues around motherhood, female friendships, and "crying in the bathroom." However, some of the chapters are great for men too. I've had moments where I just *had* to show my brother, my husband, and my uncle a chapter or two. And once they start the first few sentences they're usually hooked until the end. Of course, the point isn't that they got hooked on the chapters, but that the book has an enjoyable way of revealing truths about common life stages and experiences that stay with the reader long after the book has been shelved.

    One of my favourite chapters is called "Things I don't do" about having boundaries on our personal time, and getting a healthier perspective on our priorities in life. It's one thing for me to describe this chapter to you, though, and quite another to read it. I'll post excerpts of Shauna's book here on my blog in the near future to show you what I mean about her refreshing insights and writing style.

    If I had one concern, it would be her take on theology and her critique of theologians. She's a pastor's kid, as am I, so I would have expected her to have a more nuanced and sophisticated view of the Gospel and the people who teach it to us. Her perspective sounds a lot like the disdain for theology I heard from members of a former church I attended, and I'm concerned that a growing number of Christians--who are understandably disillusioned with dogmatic, fundamentalist-style Christianity--are throwing out the baby with the bathwater when it comes to regarding God's Word and the people He has gifted as teachers with value and respect. This chapter appears near the end of the book, so it didn't affect my experience of the rest of her thoughts, which was good. I'll post more about this in the future as well. But this is the only reason I can't give the book a perfect rating, as much as I would have liked to.

    So I give it four out of five stars. If you can find a copy, I definitely recommend reading it at least once. As for me, I'll be re-reading "Bittersweet" many times over.

    A special request: I'd be Shauna's first customer if she were to publish her tips on dining and entertaining, along with recipes for the many fabulous dishes she describes in "Bittersweet". They all sounded so delectably irresistible!

    --- ~*~ ---

    I want to express my sincere thanks to Zondervan for the opportunity to review Bittersweet. I received a complimentary copy of this book from Zondervan in exchange for writing a review, and I was free to express my honest impressions of the book, whether positive or negative.
  5. Ben Umnus
    Wisconsin
    Age: 18-24
    Gender: male
    4 Stars Out Of 5
    September 13, 2010
    Ben Umnus
    Wisconsin
    Age: 18-24
    Gender: male
    Prior to reading this book I hadn't heard of Shauna Niequist or her previous book Cold Tangerines, but I decided to give her new book a try anyway. I did some research and apparently Shauna is the daughter of Bill Hybels, the Senior Pastor of Willow Creek Community Church. I read Bittersweet, because I was curious about her thoughts, I was also curious about her writing style, and coincidentally I haven't read many books written by women. To me reading Bittersweet was like reading a publicized diary. Bittersweet is a look into Shauna's personal life, her past, her pleasures and sorrows, her most precious moments, etc along with making life suggestions and giving encouragement to readers. Although I can't relate to some subjects she wrote about like having a miscarriage, I enjoyed reading chapters like 'say something' and 'twenty five' as I learned a bit from her experiences. Of course a drawback in my opinion is since she is a Christian author and the daughter of a Mega Church Pastor, I would preferred to have read provisions of scripture in addition to her thoughts; especially whenever she mentioned moments in Biblical history and God. Overall this is a very deep, poetic book filled with many familiar emotions: happiness, anger, sadness, excitement, even envy. I liked reading this, just remember to compare it to scripture for it is wise to do this with any other book which has a Christian label. Disclaimer: Ben Umnus was given a free copy of this book by Zondervan Publishing, but he was neither paid for his review nor was he commanded by Zondervan Publishing to write a positive review. This review is the personal, written opinion of Ben Umnus. This disclaimer is in accordance with the Federal Trade Commissions 16 CFR, Part 255
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