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It’s Giveaway Day!

“Sweet is nice enough, but bittersweet is beautiful, nuanced, full of depth and complexity.  Bittersweet is courageous, gutsy, earthy….This collection is an ode to all things bittersweet, to life at the edges, a love letter to what change can do in us.  This is what I’ve come to believe about change: it’s good, in the way that childbirth is good, and heartbreak is good, and failure is good.  By that I mean that it’s incredibly painful, exponentially more so if you fight it, and also that it has the potential to open you up, to open life up, to deliver you right into the palm of God’s hand, which is where you wanted to be all along, except that you were too busy pushing and pulling your life into exactly what you thought it should be.”
[Shauna Niequist,  Bittersweet prologue]

Bam.  If that doesn’t make you want to read this book then you need to go out and get your heart broken immediately so you can start LIVING.  And while you’re at it, go listen to Alanis Morissette’s “You Learn.”  She has sage wisdom to impart, and she’s certainly got the bitter thing down pat.

Shauna is, thankfully, much softer and more full of grace than Alanis (which is great because while bitter makes for excellent songs, it doesn’t lend itself as well to books).   And grace is exactly what I want to talk about.

There a dozens of quotes in this book, gems, to which I could have related so many stories: heartbreaking stories and beautiful, hopeful stories.  And on even more snipets I could offer commentary, because let’s face it, I don’t write because I’m short on opinions.  But the more I thought about it (and perused the underlined/highlighted passages of my book), the more one particular passage stood out.

Here is one of my favorite excerpts from Bittersweet.   (It made me cry. SHOCKING.)  This is from the chapter titled, “grace is new math.”

“I don’t like the idea that someone can judge me and that I have to depend on their grace…I hate to think about the fact that the people who love me show me grace for all my faults.  I prefer to believe instead that the math works: that there are good things about me and hard things about me, but that they’ve checked the math and because I’m funny enough, they can let go of how terrible I look most days, or that if I’m interesting enough, the fact that my house is dirty isn’t such a big deal.  But that kind of math is specifically anti-grace.  Grace isn’t about netting out on the right side of things.

If arithmetic is numbers, and if algebra is numbers and letters, then grace is numbers, letters, sounds, and tears, and feelings and dreams.  Grace is smashing the calculator, and using all the broken buttons and pieces to make a mosaic.

Grace isn’t about having a second chance; grace is having so many chances that you could use them through all eternity and never come up empty.  It’s when you finally realize that the other shoe isn’t going to drop, ever.  It’s the moment you feel as precious and handmade as every star, when you feel, finally, at home for the very first time…

…So these days , I’m on the lookout for grace, and I’m especially on the lookout for ways that I withhold grace from myself and from other people.  At first, showing people grace makes you feel powerful, like scattering candy from a float in a parade – grace for you, grace for you.  You become almost giddy, thinking of people in generous ways, allowing for their faults, absorbing minor irritations.  You feel great, and then you start to feel just ever so slightly superior, because you’re so incredibly evolved and gracious.

But then inevitably something happens, and it usually involves you confronting one of your worst selves, often in public, and you realize that you’re not throwing candy off a float to a nameless, dirty public, but rather that you are that nameless, dirty public, and that you are starving and on your knees, praying for a little piece of sweetness, just one mouthful of grace.”

I don’t know if you’ve ever been covered in all the dirt that you made for yourself, starving and begging for grace, but I have, more than once.  And I will remember forever the faces of the people who gave it to me.  In this passage Shauna writes two of my now-favorite statements about grace.

-Grace isn’t about netting out on the right side of things.
-It’s when you finally realize the other shoe isn’t going to drop, ever.
(And the calculator metaphor is beautiful too, and the parade one is spot on, and, and and…)

Perhaps the thing I love most about Shauna’s writing (besides that it is honest, and relatable) is her diction.  Wordsmithery at its happiest and most creative.

When she described bittersweet as “nuanced” and “gutsy” something inside me cried, “Yes, exactly!”  She describes her son’s laughter as “round,” and a busy day feeling like “Tarzan swinging on vines, feet never touching the ground.”  She even describes choosing her diction, with great diction.

“Lots of days I feel like I can’t grab on to anything concrete, like writing is imaginary and difficult, a mental universe I can’t locate.  I could cook, unpack, fix, fold, anything tactile and touchable.  I’d rather do sit-ups for an hour than try to locate a string of words in my mind.  I want to believe that our brains are machines you turn on and off like cars, but when it comes down to it, I think they’re a lot more like cats or toddlers: you sometimes have to trick them or turn your back for just a second, allowing them to believe you’re not watching.”

I loved the theme of this book, the content, the style, and of course, all the craving-inducing descriptions of food.  Oh, the food!  Bittersweet is a collection of beautiful, well-crafted, easy-to-read essays on a topic so poignant and personal and real that it took my breath away in more than a few places.  I recommend it without reservation!

To be entered into the giveaway for an autographed copy of Bittersweet, just comment on this post!  You can say anything you want, the world is your oyster!  What “bittersweet” means to you, thoughts on grace, a song you’re reminded of, a verse, or “pick me, pick me!”  And of course paying me compliments is always appropriate.  Just kidding… maybe.

The winner will be selected randomly, and I’ll announce the results in a post first thing tomorrow morning.  It could be you!

Just to be safe, you can click here to order a copy of Bittersweet for yourself.  You won’t regret it.

You can read and listen to six full chapters on Shauna’s website here.
(You can also take a peek into Shauna’s first book, Cold Tangerines, which is one of my favorite books – ever.)

  • Artgirl423kd

    PRESSURE! i want to enter but this is tough- what to say…

    well, i will start with a compliment – always the “brown noser” ;)
    kate you are awesome- i’ve literally known you your whole life- but this blog gives me the opportunity to really “know” you. i love reading about your day to day life and seriously wish we lived closer b/c i think we’d hang out all the time. i can’t believe how many times i have read your stuff and thought “me too!” i love feeling close to you from far away. your blog was the first i added to my google reader and i check it faithfully everyday- and with that said- you were the one who got me reading “cold tangerines” that post on creativity sealed the deal- i am seriously hooked. can’t wait to read “bittersweet”!

  • Chase Adams

    1. Great post Kate.
    2. Your husband is a man’s man. A compliment for Dan…and a compliment for oyu…all wrapped into one little nugget of truth.
    3. This looks like a great book…I’ll check it out.

  • Rose Jackson

    If you haven’t read them already, I highly recommend “The Glass Castle” and “A Tree Grows In Brooklyn”. I have both, I will send them to you one at a time if you like.

    And ohmygosh, the superior-parade-throwing-person, I have been, also the poor dirty person…
    The most recent instance of dirt-covering was when I received hate mail from my in-laws with lots of cursing and, you know, if you want to really hurt someone, say what is true… Well, they found lots of true soul-killing things to say about me. I haven’t fully recovered yet.

    PICK ME! :}

  • G_Squared

    Love reading your blog… It’s so very inspirational, musing, and just all-around fun. :-) This books looks like it is a fantastic read! Thanks for sharing!

  • Mary Cartwright

    Your mom put me onto your blog! It’s lovely. Thanks for introducing me to Shauna’s writing, and yours, too.

  • Aliesha

    Right after Vera was born, I picked up Cold Tangerines for the first time. Oh my! What a delightful read, and so very poignant at this season of my life.

    On the subject of “bittersweet,” this section from the chapter entitled “soup from bones” came to mind:

    “I like the idea of everything being alive, healthy, brimming with spirit and hope. I wish my life was like that. There are moments of life and beauty, but there are also a lot of bones, skeletons from lives already lived, regrets, broken hearts and promises and relationships. Now on my best days, I take a look at each pile of bones and imagine what it would take to make some soup, to repair and redeem, to make something dead into something full of life and flavor. … And what you get from that pile of bones is soup–warm, rich, full of life and soul and spirit. You get something beautiful out of the trash, which is the whole point.”

    I would love to read Bittersweet!

  • Joyce Courtney

    i wonder what the title of YOUR first book will be?

  • Renee Crane

    I am so excited for you and the success of your blog. Its fun, as ArtGirl483kd pointed out, to get to know what is really going on in Kate’s world. Thanks for all that you have shared with me in your life.
    I have truly enjoyed reading your blog, and been inspired, at my parents chagrin, to write more frequently in mine.

    This book seems so inspirational and poignant. I can’t wait to dive into it and learn more about Shauna and about grace. Thanks for posting!

  • Tadburt

    When I picked up Cold Tangerines, I could barely put it down! Things like bathing and putting on makeup and preparing meals for my family were suddenly annoying interruptions to reading and absorbing what Shauna had to say (Except bathing and reading can go rather nicely together if you add candles and hot tea and some relaxing background music) . I can’t wait to read Bittersweet! Her stories …and that is what her books are chocked full of… hit home for me as if she had interviewed and observed my life just prior to writing some of them. Remember in Steel Magnolias when the funeral has ended and the women…the beautiful southern women are walking away from the grave and after a joke at Weezer’s expense the statement is made, “Laughter through tears…that ‘s my favorite emotion”. That describes the word Bittersweet to me and I have the feeling that is exactly what I will find within the pages of this book. Oh yeah, pick me! pick me!

  • Maitlin

    I would love to read Bittersweet! Pick me, pick me! :)

  • Lauren Carter


    I love reading your blog! I figure any book you love would be a book I love too! :) Pick me, pick me! :)

    Lauren Carter

    • Kate Conner

      LAUREN, YOU WIN! Congratulations, you’re in for a great read! Shoot me a message with your address (you can use the contact form on this page) and then wait by the mailbox for your book!

  • Annie

    Wow! This sounds like a really good book. And I love your writing. You are totally relatable, and challenging and fun.

  • Cindy

    Ummm,,,pick me? :-)

  • Allie

    I’ll enter my name in here because I tried to request this book at the library and they don’t have it!! ugh! Love you, Kate!!

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  • Dana

    Hi Kate! I’m not sure if you remember me from Liberty or not, but I was in your RA group and came across your blog recently on Facebook. It’s fantastic- refreshing and encouraging. Thanks for sharing.

    Anyway, I’d love to win the book. Sounds like a good one!

    • Kate Conner

      Of course I remember you, Dana! I’m so glad you dropped in! Fingers crossed! :)

  • Lindsey Barrett

    I want it! I want it! And I really think that you should give it to me for three reasons:

    1. I desperately want to read one of Shauna’s books (yeah, I just said Shauna ’cause we’re close like that and I was too lazy to scroll up to figure out how to spell her last name). Having been told by several closest friends to read something of hers, this is definitely the cheapest way for me to do that. Call me a tight wad, I know….

    2. I think your blog is amazing. I check it incessantly for updates. Sound stalker-ish enough? Scary, I know. I have a blog reading addiction (to yours and several others), but admitting this is the first step to recovery.

    3. I would share this treat with others. I love love love to read, and I love to share excellent reads with my people. I know this would be one of those books.

    • Kate Conner

      You are too funny! And you make a great case – I’ll be sure to pass on all your arguments to :)

  • laura hunt-mccormick

    I just finished Cold Tangerines and I really can’t wait to get my hands on Bittersweet. I reccomended it to several people the minute I turned the last page. It is so hard for me to even begin to discuss the ideas as the open honesty wrapped in perfect symbolism speaks directly to parts of me heart I try to ignore. So I think you should send the book to me because I will love and appreciate it as you do.

    PS-It would be extremely appropriate for you to give me a book named after chocolate since you wrote my roommate reps for stealing my chocolate. After all, theft is against the Liberty Way. lol!

    • Kate Conner

      Haha, did I really write someone reps for that?!? I have no memory of it. I was probably empathizing with you – my God have mercy on the soul he who steals my chocolate!

  • Christian Chastain

    I like your blog, and hey, id read it if I won it. =)

    Keep it up Kate.

  • Emily Childs

    I just read a few chapters of this while I was at Starbucks. I’m without a doubt in the strangest season of my life and I have been able to relate to every single chapter of this book. My sister lives in Michigan and I live in Texas. We wanted to read the book together, but I’m the only one that has a copy so she was going to read mine when I was done. I would LOVE to be able to have another copy so we can read it together. It is so refreshing to hear the story and thoughts of someone who has been where I am and where I am about to be.

  • Megan

    I LOVE Shauna’s books! Well, book. I’ve only read Cold Tangerines, but fell absolutely in love with it! Even if I don’t win the giveaway, I’ll still be buying it. However, being a college student, free books are always nice : )