I am a Proud Mama

This morning I sat on a white bench in the early morning coolness and read the first chapter and the epilogue of an advance copy of my daughter’s latest book. I’d read the manuscript before, all except the epilogue, so I didn’t need the full meal, just the appetizer and dessert. But honestly, an appetizer so surprisingly filling and a dessert so remarkably rich are nearly as satisfying as a seven-course meal. If you know Shauna’s writing at all, you understand why I slide into a mealtime metaphor in talking about this book, her second gift to the reading world.

The book is vintage Shauna—tender, profound, laugh-out-loud funny, stunningly creative. I can’t imagine anyone who wouldn’t love this book. But don’t take my word for it. Here’s what Publisher’s Weekly wrote about it:

Bittersweet: Thoughts on Change, Grace, and Learning the Hard Way by 
Shauna Niequist
Zondervan, $16.99 (256p) ISBN 978-0-310-32816-2

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)

Okay? Now do you believe me?

What Publisher’s Weekly can’t possibly know, of course, is the thirty-three year back-story that I know about the little girl who Bill and I described with the seemingly opposing images of “a party waiting to happen” and “the ultimate bookworm.” From the time she was three Shauna was clearly both: a wild and funny extrovert on the search for a good time (preferably with something good to eat and drink thrown in) and an earnest devotee of the printed word in search of a good book (she had read the entire Little House on the Prairie series numerous time before she hit kindergarten).

Later, we accused her of “never having an unexpressed thought.” When Shauna now describes her son Henry’s nonstop verbal barrage, we try to hold back the “oh, you deserve this!” response that high-energy, strong-willed Henry so often prompts from us. Once when Shauna was home from college and she and I were driving from Chicago to our family cottage in Michigan, she went off on a riff about “the nonstop stories that shoot through my head.” I was speechless, awed by the sheer volume of words and ideas that gushed out of her brain and her mouth. When she finally had to stop to catch her breath, I managed to whisper, “I think you should be a writer. You need to do something constructive with all this verbal stuff.”

Something constructive she has definitely done—with two delicious books, hundreds of savory blogs and a steady stream of tasty tweets. Really, I’m not just speaking as a proud mama when I say that Shauna is a uniquely gifted writer who spins her life experiences into stories that can help each of us, her readers, more deeply experience and fully appreciate our own lives. Now that I’ve finished this blog, I’m going to treat myself to another few chapters of Bittersweet.

Bittersweet will ship on July 23 if you pre-order now.