I’m relatively new to Shauna Niequest – I found her by listening to the Modern Mrs. Darcy podcast, What Should I Read Next? (which is amazing, and has added some questions for me to think about as I consider what books make it to the TBR and which ones I might not need to make time for). I really enjoyed her episode of the podcast, so I went ahead and added her latest book to my library queue. So, I jumped into this book knowing only that Shauna is a book person with tastes that overlap with me in many ways, and that the title of her book felt like something very apt for where I’m at right now. Something I did NOT know was how religious she is, or her background as a part of a church and the very painful scandals that directly impacted her and her family. It might help you to know before reading this book that Niequist is a Christian, and that’s a really important part of her identity and her writing. She does not appear to be the sort of Christian who, say, wishes to stack the Supreme Court with biased judges who will overturn decades of precedent in order to revoke rights held by anyone with a uterus solely because her chosen Holy Book and leaders say it’s their right to dictate what happens to others bodies. For the most part, her spiritual beliefs come out more in the form of delight in the patterns she observes around her, and a source of personal comfort that she leans on and wishes to express. This level of spirituality is okay with me, but while it’s not exclusionary in any way it’s definitely coded as very Christian and if you’re not into that, or maybe just not feeling like now is the time to uplift authors in that tradition, this might be one you skip.
Most of her essays are not directly about faith, but rather about her life (and faith just happens to be a big part of her life). She experienced a break with her church and thus her family, and together with her husband and two children she moved to New York city – away from her hometown, the place where she felt such strong roots and connection. That sort of loss would be devastating in so many ways, and she describes how she needed to deal with her grief and grow from this disorienting – and REorienting – experience. She talks about the messy and hard parts of having your life turned upside down, but also just plain on being a woman in your 40s. As a fellow woman in my 40s, it is both heartening and just a bit frightening, that lately I have been reading multiple books / articles / perspectives on life in your 40s that basically say – it gets better at 50. Okay, so, maybe this is another decade like my 20s – lots of learning?
Back to the book – Niequist writes in short chapters that are easily digested. It’s a great book to partner with some really intense fiction that you might want to take regular breaks from. I don’t think any particular message in this book is necessarily profound, but it was certainly a heartwarming experience to hear about someone going through something messy, and sad, and living to tell the tale with humor and grace and also a huge dose of humanity. Ultimately it’s a book about perseverance and love, and you know, when you’re talking about love it’s bound to get a little cheesy – I’m okay with that.