Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Present Over Perfect - by Shauna Niequist: Book Review

Title: Present Over Perfect: Leaving Behind Frantic for a Simpler, More Soulful Way of Living
Author: Shauna Niequist
Number of Pages: 240
Publisher: Zondervan
Publish Date: August 9th, 2016

I'm always curious of Shauna's new books, although I have realized long ago that I'm not always the targeted audience of everything she writers. I don't resonate with everything she writes about in this book, but there have been some aspects that rang true and caught my attention.

Shauna Niequist tells stories from her personal discovery of what it means to have way too much on your plate, saying "yes" to one more thing, but forgetting what is important and what should be a priority. The author makes several references to her family, her husband and children, and this automatically makes a distinction between those who can relate to this life and those who aren't in that season of life. It's not a deal breaker, but something that should be mentioned. You know, the busy wife&mom life VS those who aren't that.

Something that I think is worth mentioning is that sometimes it feels like she keeps saying the same thing over and over again. In a way it makes sense since the core of what she's writing is not some big theology, although it can be looked at from different perspectives. This is something I find in most non-fiction (especially Christian) books: the author has the idea, and that idea is turned every possible way to make a book out of it. Now, luckily, Shauna Niequist is good with words - I like how she writes, I like how she chooses the right word for the right sentence. Sometimes she goes the long way to make a point, and while this can be slightly hard to follow, one can look at it as her writing style. Others see this as rambling.

On to what I definitely like: I highlighted quite a bit, so that should be enough evidence that I did like this book. My favorite parts were those that referenced to prayer. Adopting this new mantra of slowing down and being mindful of what she accepts in her schedule meant a shift in the way she looks at prayer. [God] has all the time in the world to sit with me and sift through my fears and feelings and failings. That’s what prayer is. That’s what love is like. (...) He doesn’t ask me to show up and catalog my strengths. He doesn’t ask me to show up and abuse myself for my failings. He asks me to bring my whole-fragile-strong-weak-good-bad self. (...) He is love itself, grace embodied, holding the fullness of who we are—strong, weak, good, bad, wild, fearful, brave, silly—in his hands. He can be trusted with every part of it, the silly and the enormous. What she's saying is that prayer is not a brief meeting where we ask for direction when we're stuck, or give the run-down of how we did things - prayer is something that binds us with God. If not for something else, the passages about it are worth reading the book for.

Another thing that I particularly liked was how she linked being still to coming to terms with who you are & who you are meant to be. Because it’s only when we’re truly alone that we can listen to our lives and God’s voice speaking out from the silence. We can ignore what we are called to do and be, or we can live fulfilling our calling. This, too, is something worth reading the book for. Probably given the life stage I'm in, the words had a bigger impact, and they were most welcome.

Although I'm not one of those people who have a lot going on and feel the pressure to make a big sacrifice to rise to the expectations imposed on me, there sure was something valuable I took from this book, as I'm sure everyone will. That is, if you don't make up your mind to see this book as another one in a long list of Christian non-fiction books written by middle-class, middle-age women (wife&mom, naturally). In no way is my life similar to hers, but some things are generally true, no matter the lifestyle differences.

I received an ebook from the publisher via Net Galley in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts expressed here are my own.

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