Book Reviews Non-fiction

Bread and Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table by Shauna Niequist

April 17, 2014

 During our Chicago trip last week, I felt extremely burned out.

Over the last year, I’ve been working more than I ever have (except maybe my last year as an undergrad when I was working three jobs and taking a full class load, or . . . maybe my second year of grad school when I was working three jobs and taking a full class load. I am basically incapable of saying no to a job offer, obviously), and I was just at the end of my rope.

So instead of working through every nap time and after the girls went to bed (which is what I do at home), I pulled out Bread and Wine and read on the couch. (Except for the night we watched the latest episode of Once Upon a Time).

It was the best kind of vacation.

I think I would have enjoyed just about any book I’d read last week, but this was the absolutely the perfect book.

First off, I love any book about food. If you’ve read my blog for a while, that’s no surprise to you. I bookmarked at least half of the recipes to make as soon as I got home. Goat cheese biscuits? Dark chocolate sea salted toffee? Blueberry and peach breakfast crisp? You don’t have to ask twice.

Secondly, lots of the book takes place in Chicago, so it was fun to be reading it interspersed with outings to the very restaurants and neighborhoods she was referencing in her book.

Also Shauna (yes, I feel like we are on a first-name basis, and besides when we were flying out of Chicago, the flight attendant noticed me reading this book and told me that she and Shauna went to the same high school and now attend the same church. So, we’d totally be friends), is hilariously funny.

In a chapter on her struggle with secondary infertility, she talked about fighting the feeling that, if only she were pregnant, everything in her life would be better:

At one point, I told Aaron, “Pregnant is the new skinny.” What I meant is, if you know me at all, you know that one of my most cracked-up, terribly errant beliefs is that skinny people are always happy. Because I think I would be happy all day long if I was skinny. If something upset me, I would just look down at my long, skinny legs — happiness! If my heart was broken, I’d just put on a bikini — and that sadness would vanish. 

I know this isn’t true. I know this is crazy talk. I know miserable skinny people. But I confess that sometimes I want to shake them: I know, I know, this or that has got you down, but find a three-way mirror and look at your butt. Don’t you feel better now? I know I would.

I mean, how can you not love a person who writes that kind of thing?

I really appreciated how similar her philosophy on having people over is to my own. People don’t care if your house is perfect. They just want to feel welcomed, included, and loved. And she makes a new recipe practically every time she has people over, which is just the kind of person I am (yes, that’s my idea of living on the wild side).

I loved reading about her family, the eventual birth of her second child (hooray!), and her really sweet and insightful thoughts about friendship and family.  And there was a whole chapter about unplugging and just living your life, which was basically exactly what I needed to read last week.

Mainly, reading this book just made me feel deeply happy. I like books that are fun or suspenseful or romantic or funny. But a book that makes me happy? I just can’t ask for much more.

I’ve been to the library twice since I finished the book and I can’t bring myself to return it yet. I’m probably going to have to buy my own copy. And copies of her previous books too.

(P.S. If this is the kind of book you like, I highly recommend A Homemade Life,  Dinner: A Love Story, or Garlic and Sapphires). 

Copy checked out from my local library

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  • Reply Rebecca Lately April 17, 2014 at 12:27 pm

    Yeah.. I need to buy that book. I love books about food. I even read cook books. I've always wondered if other people do that.

    I am the same way with having people over. It's like the meal doesn't feel complete unless I'm trying a new recipe.

  • Reply Melanie April 17, 2014 at 1:47 pm

    Yes, I loved this book too. It's definitely her best.

  • Reply smalldog April 17, 2014 at 2:00 pm

    That sounds like a really lovely read, I'll have to add it to my list. I'm in need of a few bookish self-imposed couch vacations myself.

  • Reply Stevie Storck April 17, 2014 at 2:46 pm

    You convinced me! I just ordered this book from amazon. I've been looking for a new book to read and I've also been trying to work on my cooking skills, so this seems like the perfect way to kill two birds with one stone. Thanks for sharing your review!

  • Reply Sam V. April 17, 2014 at 5:23 pm

    I just finished reading Bread and Wine and wrote about it on my blog. My husband and I have been trying (an not succeeding) to get pregnant so when Shauna shared her story to secondary infertility I was in tears. My copy is from the library and I haven't returned it yet either because I don't want to give it up and since I am at the library everyday (I work there) I have no excuse to keep books longer that necessary.

  • Reply Feisty Harriet April 17, 2014 at 5:27 pm

    I've had my eye on this book for a while, moving it up on my list.


  • Reply Beth April 17, 2014 at 6:11 pm

    I just got this book from the library yesterday! I live in Grand Rapids, so I loved hearing her talk about the time they lived here. Also, I tried the blueberry crisp at the beginning of the book – SO good.

  • Reply Laura April 17, 2014 at 7:58 pm

    Aw, the book sounds good, but that quote seems sad, not funny. How terrible if you were so tied to your body (and body image) that you felt like your butt was your best asset.

  • Reply Kelsey Clark April 17, 2014 at 10:30 pm

    I haven't read this book, yet, but I read her first book, Cold Tangerines. I remember just how funny Shauna is, as well as how easy she is to relate to. I definitely need to read this one now…and maybe Cold Tangerines, too.

  • Reply Becca April 17, 2014 at 11:48 pm

    Every now and then you write a review about a book (that usually has to do with food) that makes me want to go to the library right now and check it out. Such is this.

    And the next time you complain about something making you sad, I'm totally going to tell you to look at your skinny legs, and ask if you feel better. 😉

  • Reply Creole Wisdom April 18, 2014 at 1:01 am

    Yes! I'm so glad you read this. I recently heard Shauna speak at Hope Spoken and she was incredible. I've read all three of her books ("Bittersweet" and "Cold Tangerines") and she simply has a way of taking you right to that moment– and also connecting sweet moments of goodness with hard parts of life. I love how she writes. Glad you could sit back, relax, and enjoy some of her writing!

  • Reply Brenda Vasquez April 19, 2014 at 3:07 am

    I have been reading your blog since the beginning of this year and I love reading your book reviews. They are always spot on. We def. share similar taste. I started reading bread and wine earlier this month and LOVE so much. I'm only reading one chapter at a time so that I can savor it even more. Enjoy reading your blog.

  • Reply april April 21, 2014 at 1:03 pm

    Oh, I'll definitely have to put this on my list to read. I adored Garlic and Sapphires.

  • Reply Lauren April 21, 2014 at 8:51 pm

    I just went to amazon and bought this book. I cannot wait to read it!

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