One of my favourite authors put out a request on Facebook for people to read and blog a review of her latest book Bread & Wine, which is to be released April 9th. I was very happy to reply and say I would love to. So here is my review.
Shauna Niequist is the author of Cold Tangerines and Bittersweet, and Bread & Wine. Shauna grew up in Barrington, Illinois, and then studied English and French Literature at Westmont College in Santa Barbara. She 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 & Shauna live outside Chicago with their sons, Henry and Mac. 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.
My Review of Bread & Wine
I forget how I came across Shauna Niequist, but I do remember that I read Bittersweet first. I think I found it in the Kindle Store on Amazon.com and the summary made me buy it and dive right in.
I do believe that I can honestly say that I am not the demographic that Shauna writes for. A 35 year-old man is not her target audience but do enjoy her writing and I get a lot out of it. Shauna writes in such a way that it seems like a conversation over coffee, or an evening meal shared intimately around the table with friends. She is relatable, open, honest, and well, real.
When I came across Bittersweet, I was in a transition phase of my life and it was about a transition phase that Shauna and her husband Aaron had gone through. Needless to say, it was where my wife and I were at and I could relate. Even though it was on a completely different topic than our struggles, we could relate. So I read Bittersweet, then I read Cold Tangerines and I began to follow Shauna on Facebook and was excited when she announced a third book and I am very happy to be able to read it and review it and write about it.
As I said, reading Shauna’s books are like sitting down with her and talking about life. She is relatable, open and honest and she keeps it real. In Bread and Wine it is no different, she wears her heart and her emotions on her sleeve and she’s not afraid to show it. All of her books incorporate food and dinner parties and family and well, life. She is not afraid to put it out there—it may take her some rewrites and second thoughts but she eventually puts it out there and makes herself vulnerable and in return is accepted with open arms.
Bread & Wine is not unlike her first two books, in that it gives a snapshot into her life, but this one includes recipes that although I have not tried yet, I do plan on trying some of them. It is not a cookbook, but it contains recipes for every part of a meal: appetizers to desserts.
As I read Shauna’s books, I keep wishing I could be a part of some of these dinner parties, the food, the atmosphere, the company, all seems like people I could hang out with and fit in with and have a good time with.
Anyway, back to the task at hand, reviewing Bread & Wine. I love how Shauna begins with a quote from Winnie-the-Pooh. Pooh is usually thinking about food and Piglet thinks about adventure, and in many ways, as Pooh so readily points out, they are in so many ways, the same thing. What does one eat can certainly turn out to be a grand adventure, planning, cooking, serving, even entertaining, can be an adventure worthy of Indiana Jones much of the time.
Another quote I really appreciate is a quote by Lynne Rossetto Kasper and it is this: “There are two kinds of people in the world, those who wake up thinking about what to have for supper and those who don’t.” I do believe I am one of those who do, however many days have supper lurking around the corner before I have an answer to the proverbial question of what’s for supper.
As I read Bread & Wine, I keep reading great zingers that grab and refuse to let go. Almost every chapter has at least one and to quote them all would take up too much space and time, but I will mention some. In chapter 10 Hummingbird, Shauna is writing about some issues she developed during her pregnancy and how it wasn’t looking very good, but at the end of the chapter she writes this short paragraph:
“Our little hummingbird was still beating its tiny wings, and even though my fear was detonating over and over like bombs dropping, the fragile fractured wings of my heart dared to beat as well, and alongside, all that fear and all that gratitude, I felt the first rush of hope.”
Even in the midst of fear and the unknown, hope shines through, we just need to stop and find it.
Another thing I appreciate about Shauna’s writing is her openness and honesty. She writes from her heart; it’s like sitting with her over coffee and hearing her tell her story, her fears, her worries, but more than that, Shauna writes about her dreams, her loves, her passions, and her life. God, Family/friends and Food would be her top three passions and loves and what she is motivated and stirred to action by. She’s not afraid to write about what has impacted her. She mentions some things that level the playing field—she is not out for recognition of what she’s done but rather for who she is.
I feel that after reading Shauna’s books that I have known her my whole life, but in reality we have never met and may never meet—but that is what makes a great communicator—she writes about where she’s at and what she’s done and those reading/listening can relate.
Another zinger is found in feasting and fasting Chapter 18. She writes:
“I’m working to find a middle ground—some fasting, some feasting. At some points, gobbling up life with every bite; in other seasons, mastering the appetites and tempering the desires…Some days I get it right, and some days I don’t, but I do know that along the way, the process is healing me.”
The honesty is raw and pure and yet, because of it’s subject, we can all relate and we can all understand her longings and frustrations and sympathize, knowing we have been there, are there or heading there; sometimes a bit of all three.
City Love was a chapter that brought back memories from my own wedding day. After our wedding, we had a reception, but there was no head table, my wife and I greeted each table, there was a short program and then we made our escape. On the way to our honeymoon suite, we stopped at Harvey’s and got 2 Cheddar Bacon Cheeseburger meals ran off the whirlpool tub and ate our burgers. Reading about the foil wrapped meals on the window seat—brought back some great memories. What better way to begin life together than leaving your wedding and having comfort food?
This whole book has brought back some good memories of when we lived in Edmonton, Alberta. We would host movie nights where each couple would bring a dish to share and we would watch series of movies, Indiana Jones Trilogy, Back to the Future Trilogy, Brat Pack movies and such. Reading about the cooking club parties and dinner parties it was great memories coming back of great days.
That is one of the reasons I like reading Shauna’s books; she writes about real life stuff. The good, the bad, the real; I’m sure she edited or rethought about what she wrote before sending it to the publishers, but that’s what is real. Thoughts about swimwear, body image, post baby body, and how some diets are better than others—real life that is relatable, no matter who or where you are.
I would like to thank Shauna for allowing me to pre-read and review Bread & Wine. A fascinating book about life; I encourage you to get a copy of it when it is released in mid-April. Amazon.com has it, you just order it and a few days later it’s in your mailbox.
Thanks for taking the time to read my review, and if Shana Niequist is not an author of your choice, read her books and I bet she will be.