I discovered Shauna Niequist in the summer of 2010, when I impulse-bought her second book, Bittersweet. In that rough period of my life, her raw, honest, yet hopeful words were a huge comfort to me. I went on to devour her earlier book, Cold Tangerines, and loved it too. So when she recently put out a call on her blog for reviewers of her long-anticipated third book, Bread & Wine, I was thrilled to participate!
Bread & Wine is about the intersections of food and fellowship, food and culture, food and travel, food and memories, all within the context of a normal life. It's a celebration of food without snobbery – you won't find any reviews of five-star restaurants here. Through personal stories, Shauna demonstrates the power of sharing simple but good food with people you love, especially when life is tumbling down around your ears. Many of the chapters involve her Cooking Club, a group of friends who started cooking and eating together once a month and formed strong bonds around the table. Other chapters focus on especially memorable or meaningful meals in her past – the wedding leftovers she and her husband shared on a window seat, special dinner parties for friends' birthdays, a potluck cookout with her family after her son's baptism. She also reflects on times when others ministered to her through food.
Most of the essays end with a recipe related to the story, and they all sound amazing. In the letter that came with the ARC, Shauna encouraged reviewers to have a dinner party including some of the recipes from the book. Well, I did, and it was fantastic. Read about it here tomorrow! I'll share more specifically about the recipes then. She also includes a helpful appendix about her pantry staples and weeknight dinner routine, and basic entertaining tips.
As much as I enjoyed the food talk, my favorite aspect of Bread & Wine was Shauna's usual vulnerability and transparency about her personal struggles. As someone who dealt with infertility for many years, then endured a rough pregnancy and a health scare with her son after he was born, she's well acquainted with life not going according to plan. She also talks openly about her overachieving nature, her experiences as a writer, and her innate need for constant community with the people she loves. I relate to her deeply. For me, reading her books is like reading letters from a wiser older sister. I feel less alone in my messiness, and inspired to handle it in a more positive, productive way. Somehow, Shauna fully validates the pain and junk of life, while simultaneously pointing to its joys, victories, and the God who rules over it all. She is an ambassador of Wholeheartedness.
Bread & Wine will be released on April 9. I soaked up every word of this book, and highly recommend it.
** I received a copy of this book for review, but this review is my honest and personal opinion. **