Book Review: Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequist

June 26, 2018
I feel as though I need to begin this book review with a disclaimer: this is the first title I've read from this popular author.  I also am reviewing the audiobook version that I checked out from the Libby library app. Because the author orated the audiobook herself, the material felt much more personable.

As you listen, you get the sense that Shauna is reading to you from a journal; each of her chapters is short. However, all the chapters point toward her discovery: her wild, overloaded, and people-pleasing life can transition to a peaceful, satisfying life with better choices and higher priorities. 

Shauna is honest and transparent, which will allow many readers to quickly identify with her.  Those who may not relate are stay-at-home moms who are seeking balance in their lives and single moms with less financial means than the author has. This content would appeal more to a woman who is working outside of the home and struggling with career priorities. It was inspiring to hear how Shauna identified her struggle, learned to say no to distractions, and walked through to a more positive outcome.  It gives hope.  

However.  

As I listened, there were a couple of things that made me go "hmm."  I'm sure it was purposeful to draw in a secular audience. I do have to say that I always hesitate when someone who says they are a Christian talks about their pursuit of "finding themselves" or wanting to discover their purpose. I hesitate even more when these same Christians mention how then they then experimented and incorporated facets from other denominations to "expand" their spirituality." Shauna used the term "spiritual director" (which sounds much more New Age than saying "counselor") for her Jesuit counselor with whom she had sessions instead of someone who had more similar religious beliefs. Lastly, she and her husband created an interfaith type of worship service that included rituals of the Catholic faith and other faiths. This rang bells for me. It all seemed intended to be experimental and mystic. It was like combining ingredients to find the right recipe and get the right spiritual high -- instead of merely allowing the Holy Spirit to lead the worship service. 

Again, this narrative appeared to be more for a secular audience, evident by her use of Scripture. The few verses 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 and 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 what God has shown me or done through me." 

Needless to say, the ending, while a "happy ending," was anti-climatic. I was happy for Shauna, but because this book was more like a memoir, I 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. 

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