Whole Living Gal

Bittersweet: A Review and Giveaway

“When life is sweet, say thank you and celebrate. And when life is bitter, say thank you and grow.”

I can’t think of a better book to highlight this week than Bittersweet by Shauna Niequist. As we gather around tables with friends and family to celebrate a season of thanksgiving, Shauna’s words and stories keep coming to my mind.

For some of us, thanksgiving is truly a season of gratefulness – we are full beyond measure in our lives. Our relationships are full and healthy, we have beautiful friends and family around us, our bodies are healthy, our tables and cupboards are full of good food, we have so much to be thankful for.

But some of us are experiencing more bitter flavors this holiday. There is an empty chair this year that used to be occupied with someone we love, we long for restoration in a relationship, we moved this year, we lost a job, our tummies are not as full. Whatever it is, the bitter creeps in, even on this holiday time.

In her newest book, my friend Shauna writes about her own struggles through the bitterness in life, but she finds the sweet along the way, which makes this a beautiful book – not just for those experiencing heartache, but for all of us who have been there or will be there again.

What I love most about Shauna’s writing is her attention to the small, beautiful things in life. She pays attention to things that address the five senses and writes about them in a fresh way. When I read her essays, I want to literally take the time to smell the roses.

She talks about family recipes for blueberry pie, meals she remembers with friends, and the pull of cold pizza at the end of a stressful day. In this way, she reminds her readers to pay attention to the good parts in life that we often overlook because we’re busy being busy.

Shauna walks through her own heartache in this very personal book of essays, and she comes out on the other side having grown – and she asks her readers to do the same:

“The question is not, will my life be easy or will my heart break? But rather, when my heart breaks, will I choose to grow?”

Shauna writes in a transparent way that encourages readers to examine their own lives, too. I think we are all looking for this these days. With the popularity of personal blogs (hey, I write one, too – no judgement!), we are looking for personal stories. We want to read about other people’s stories because we learn from them, we see ourselves in their lives, and we feel less alone.

Shauna reminds us that in telling our stories, we are actually telling the big story of God, too.

“God’s story was told in Hebrew and Greek, and I believe that it’s also being told in whispers and paintings and blogs and around dinner tables all over the world.”

So, keep reading other people’s stories, and keep sharing your own.

Now, onto the giveaway.

I’m so excited to be giving away a signed copy of Shauna’s book. All you have to do is leave a comment and tell me what you are thankful for this Thanksgiving – whether bitter or sweet. Let’s share our stories!

I’ll choose a winner Sunday night, plenty of time to come up with something to be thankful for!


Trackbacks & Pingbacks


  1. * nicolerenae says:

    I would love to win this book! I heard Shauna speak at Ada Bible about Cold Tangerines and Bittersweet, and have read Cold Tangerines, but haven’t gotten my hands on a copy of Bittersweet yet. It’s on my Christmas list if I don’t win:)
    I have so much to be thankful for, but I’m most thankful that God has given me 4 kids to raise to know Him and serve Him. My own little mission field. It’s a huge task, but I’m so thankful to have it.

    | Reply Posted 7 years, 4 months ago
  2. * Jesse says:

    Wow…I don’t think I could put into words all that I am thankful for. For our four kids. One who is finally home from Ethiopia. Thankful that there is one less orphan but not forgetting the ones left behind. Thankful that I have been adopted by my Heavenly Father and for the ability to worship Him freely! Many blessings to all of you and Happy Thanksgiving.
    ~Kristi Hertstein

    | Reply Posted 7 years, 4 months ago
  3. * susan says:

    This book is just what God ordered for me, if I don’t win I am sure I will have to put it on my Christmas list. I am thankful for a wonderful husband who accepts me as I am – flaws and all. Beautiful kids who delight me everyday. I too am missing closer relationships with my extended family and the loss of my mother far too early. It always hits home during holiday time, which makes it more difficult to draw on being thankful for what is. Thanks Heather for this article – it was great!

    | Reply Posted 7 years, 4 months ago
  4. * tara petty says:

    I am grateful for my loving, supportive husband, for my sweet, healthy Levi, and for the newest baby growing in me. I am grateful for the story that God is writing with my life- for the beauty and the pain that has brought me to this place.

    Thank you for sharing this wonderful review. I hope to read her new book one way or another.

    Happy thanksgiving to your family!

    | Reply Posted 7 years, 4 months ago
  5. * Dana says:

    Hi Heather! It’s ok if I don’t win the book. This is a great idea. I am thankful for so much. Even though this has been the most heartbreaking year of my life (husband decided to leave, dad diagnosed with cancer), God has become more real to me than ever before. He has carefully and gently surrounded me with life-giving friendships and hope for the future. Even though my husband is gone, I know in such a new way that God is the one who makes me whole, who makes me “enough,” and that this heartbreak will not derail His plans in and through my life. Even though some days it feels impossible to step up to the plate, He gives me the courage to simply get up and get going when I need to. And that’s something truly to be thankful for.

    | Reply Posted 7 years, 4 months ago
  6. I’m so thankful for my family! They make me smile, cry, clean, work-out, lose sleep, fill my fridge with one of kind artist work, leave me presents of all sorts that no one can buy, and make me glad God has put me in this place for such a time as this.

    Blessings to you,
    lana @ ilovemy5kids

    | Reply Posted 7 years, 4 months ago
  7. * Sheena M. says:

    I would love to win this book, I have so much to be thankful for but I am thankful that my 92 yr old grandma is here to spend the holiday with me and that my 5 kids and granddaughter have the the opportunity to know her.Our family is truly blessed

    | Reply Posted 7 years, 4 months ago
  8. * Lisa Nelson says:

    I am thankful for my Saviour, my family, my job, good books to read, and good food to eat!

    | Reply Posted 7 years, 4 months ago
  9. * sandra says:

    God has beed so abundant in my life…this desert I am going through without a job, has shown me how much I used to have and how much I took it for granted. Apart from the many friends who have blessed me financially, to answered prayers about peace and hope, God blessed me yesterday with my second niece after a very difficult delivery. Now I am grateful for what people call the little things in life: my home, my family, my friends, my health, the little work I can get and the food I have been provided. I have many things to be grateful for but God is definitely at the top of my list with his mercy,grace,forgiveness and love. Happy Thanksgiving.

    | Reply Posted 7 years, 4 months ago
  10. * Fatima says:

    I would enjoy receiving a copy of “Bittersweet” so that I can use the stories as discussion points with my young adult groups.

    | Reply Posted 7 years, 4 months ago
  11. My family and though I grew up without a dad, I have been Fathered by the one Father who leads us all to be a new kind of kid. My second son is less than two weeks old and learning to be a dad brings many wild emotions, but none greater than pure joy and sunrises.

    | Reply Posted 7 years, 4 months ago
  12. * Siriana says:

    I am thankful for seasons of challenge, change and that each day is a new day!

    | Reply Posted 7 years, 4 months ago
  13. * Bre says:

    I have an abundance of things to be thankful for, but I think I am most thankful for the amazing husband God has given me. He is so appreciative of everything I do, even when the house is not particularly clean and the dinner not particularly good. And my super great son who has a heart and maturity greater than Me, even though he is only 4.

    | Reply Posted 7 years, 4 months ago
  14. * Erika says:

    During these times of bitter and sweet, I am beyond words grateful for grace … and our faithful Father who pours it out full and overflowing in my life.

    | Reply Posted 7 years, 4 months ago
  15. * Madelaine says:

    How thankful am I to have a rewarding career as a high school English teacher… 🙂 Saving the world one teenager at a time.

    | Reply Posted 7 years, 3 months ago

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