Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Book Review: Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequist

As a disclaimer, this is the first title I've read from the author, and this review is based on the audiobook instead of the book. I'm glad I chose the audiobook because the material was made more personable orated by Shauna than probably reading the actual book. 

As you listen, it is as though Shauna is reading her daily blog posts to the reader: each "chapter" is short, yet meaningful as she shares the discovery of her frantic, overloaded and people-pleasing life to the transition toward a peaceful, satisfying life with better choices and higher priorities. 

Shauna is honest and transparent, which will allow many readers to easily identify with her. Overall, the topic seems written to be relatable to a secular audience as well as the church attender; however, it may be less relatable to a stay at home mom seeking balance than to a woman who is working outside of the home and struggles with career priorities. It also may not seem relatable to a single mom, who does not have the same financial means or resources as the author. Regardless, we all have messy lives and hearing how Shauna was able to identify her struggle, learn to say no to distractions and walk through it to a more positive outcome gives us all hope.... however...

There were a couple of things that made me go "hmm" as I listened, and I have a feeling it may have been purposeful to draw in a secular audience. First, I hesitate when a Christian talks about their pursuit of finding themselves or discovering their purpose by experimenting or incorporating facets of other denominations in order to expand their spiritual horizon (or to find the real/right God). This was apparent in Shauna's use of the term "spiritual director" (which sounds much more New Age than saying "counselor") and having sessions with a Jesuit counselor instead of someone who has more similar religious beliefs. In addition, she and her husband created a more interfaith type worship service that included facets of the Catholic faith and others. This rang bells for me. Not so much that they included the Eucharist in their service, but that the whole thing seemed more experimental, mystic - like combining things to find the right recipe and get the right high -- instead of simply allowing the Holy Spirit to lead the worship service. 

Secondly - and again I feel this was purposeful in order to come across to a more secular audience - there was not much Scripture used. The very few used seemed to be added as an afterthought while putting together the book. There were no exciting revelations she discovered from the Bible that led her to a closer relationship with God or provided the route to the better choices and balance she finally experienced. It just seemed more like the message was "I figured this out" instead of "look at what God has shown me/done through me." 

Needless to say, the ending, while a "happy ending," was anti-climatic. Knowing that this was more of a memoir or biopic, I felt happy for her but also didn't feel satisfied after finishing the book. I had hoped for more depth, more concrete concepts that I could apply in my own journey toward a God-centered, balanced life. 

Did the book deliver what was promised?  Yes. She shares her discovery of how balance comes with being more present with family and home, saying no to those things that distract her and creates stress and struggle.  

Would I recommend this title to someone I know who is struggling, yet doesn't go to church? Maybe. It is written in a loose, easy to understand vibe that they may connect with. 

Would I recommend this book to the Christian, the church-goer, the bible study girl? Um no. While you would sit down and have coffee with Shauna, this book will probably be somewhat disappointing to you. 

And unfortunately, this was my first book to read from the author, and I think it may be my last.