Author: Abbie (Page 1 of 2)

Border Patrol Perspicacity: ‘The Line Becomes a River’ by Francisco Cantú

Lately, I’ve been on a nonfiction kick. There’s something about a true story that engages and connects me more than any other genre. It’s a chance to take part in a conversation that’s happening in the world, allowing the reading experience to go beyond me and the book I’m holding.

line becomes a riverOne such conversation I feel like I’m not that knowledgeable about is immigration. I hear a lot of things, but haven’t really tried reading about the topic myself. So when The Line Becomes a River fell into my hands, I knew it was a chance for me to start listening to that conversation more closely.

The Line Becomes a River: Dispatches from the Border is the true account of Arizona native Francisco Cantú, who served as an agent for the United States Border Patrol from 2008-2012. His retired park ranger mother thought he was crazy when he told her that he’s going to go work at the border, but Cantú is determined to immerse himself in a place he has spent the past few years studying.

The book is structured into three parts. The first two are comprised of vignettes about Cantú’s work with the border patrol, both out in the field and behind a desk. Taken from his journal entries during those years, he writes about rescuing stranded migrants out in the desert, tracking drug smugglers, and researching the Mexican cartels. These snapshots of life along the border paint a vivid picture of a place few really understand.

Cantú’s experience proves that things aren’t always black and white out at the border. The numerous characters he encounters cross between countries with all kinds of intentions, and Cantú often struggles to make sense of his duty to his job and his moral duty. Plagued by strange dreams, he fears losing his humanity in a profession where the line between guilty and innocent is often a thin one.

The third part of the book has the strongest narrative and was what really sealed the story as a winner for me. It follows Cantú after he leaves the Border Patrol and is working at a coffee shop. His friend, José, gets detained coming back to the U.S. after visiting his dying mother in Mexico. José, though an undocumented migrant, is a hard worker with a family and an entire community that rallies to support him during his trial. Cantú offers a realistic and heartbreaking account of what families like José’s go through.

Cantú’s writing is strong. I love how he blends in the history of the border, as well as Spanish dialect and local color to make the narrative more authentic. Cantú is anything but preachy, letting his personal encounters do most of the storytelling, hoping that his internal conflict stirs something in the reader as well.

I really enjoyed Cantú’s interactions with his mother in the book. The daughter of a Mexican immigrant, she acts as a voice of reason and great contrast to the harsh environment that Cantú is being exposed to on a daily basis.

I think we can all relate on some level to Cantú, who at first wants to ignore what happens to people once he rescues them from the desert and delivers them to detention. But, as is the case with his friend, José, it’s not so easy to ignore the outcome once you or a loved one is put in that situation.

Overall, I recommend this book to anyone who wants to learn more about what is happening on the border or anyone who thinks they know. It’s an eye-opening book that humanizes a minority in a tension-filled political climate.

Join the conversation: Francisco Cantú will be signing copies of The Line Becomes a River at Lemuria on Monday, April 9 at 5:00 pm. The Line Becomes a River has been selected for Lemuria’s First Edition Club for Nonfiction Readers.

Tom Hanks’ collection ‘Uncommon Type’ are my type of stories

Let it be known that I am a big Tom Hanks fan. Like HUGE. You’ve Got Mail is my favorite movie, and Hanks is my favorite actor. So when I learned that he had a book of short stories coming out, I just had to get my hands on it.

And guess what? America’s dad can actually write.

hanks gif

Uncommon Type is a collection of short stories and Tom Hanks’ first book of fiction. These 17 stories are simple in nature, diverse snapshots of lives from past to future. From a man who decides to date his friend and gets a lifestyle overhaul to a man who keeps bowling the perfect game, these stories are sentimental and sweet, just like Tom.  

There’s a strong sense of nostalgia in this collection, which can best be seen in a four-part series of stories called “Our Town Today with Hank Fiset,” in which a writer comments on the shift from print to digital newspapers and other “good ole days” discussions, via his typewriter (of course). This theme is also strong in “The Past is Important to Us,” a Midnight in Paris-esque story about a man who keeps going back in time (literally) to the World’s Fair 1939.

uncommon typeThere is also, of course, the underlying presence of typewriters. For those of you who don’t know, Hanks has a slight obsession with the machine. He even typed up this collection on one. So he made sure that one crops up in each of his stories in some way, just another element of the “yearning for older times” theme that’s present throughout the book. In particular, “These are the Meditations of My Heart” is all about a woman who falls in love with typewriters.

As I read this collection, I couldn’t help but compare the stories to Hanks’ movies. That WWII veteran reflecting on the friends he lost in “Christmas Eve 1953” gave me images of Saving Private Ryan. The immigrant from a war-torn country in “Go See Costas” reminded me of The Terminal. And “Alan Bean Plus Four” definitely had Apollo 13 vibes. Even minor characters in other stories had me pondering one of the star’s many roles. There’s one story, “Junket in the City of Lights,” about a debut actor’s packed touring schedule that I assume Hanks drew upon personal experiences to write. He even said in an interview that he wrote many of these stories while traveling for films or on press tours.

What I love about this collection the most is how diverse it is. Hanks definitely played around with character, style, and setting to tell a larger story about humanity and how things change over time. The most powerful story in the book is “Go See Costas,” a heartfelt depiction of immigration. But there are also light-hearted, comedic moments in the book to balance out the more emotional ones.

Unlike a lot of stars-turned-author, Hanks actually holds his own as a strong writer. While I think he played it safe and could have done a little more risk-taking with this debut, he is a good storyteller, and I look forward to any more pieces of fiction he comes out with next.

Mississippi Book Festival Q & A with Holly Lange

It’s that time of year again! The 3rd Annual Mississippi Book Festival is this Saturday at the Mississippi State Capitol from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and we are PUMPED! We asked Mississippi Book Festival Executive Director Holly Lange to give us the scoop on what people can expect from this year and how they can best enjoy this literary lawn party.


What do people who are new to the Book Festival need to know?

The panels are held inside air-conditioned rooms, and everything is FREE AND OPEN TO THE PUBLIC! The website has a PLAN YOUR VISIT tab that will be very helpful in mapping out panel times and locations. We strongly recommend you come with an itinerary for the day and maybe a back-up panel or two picked out in case one of the rooms is full. Everything in the Old Supreme Court Room will be aired live and also re-broadcast in the future on C-SPAN.

How should people dress? What should they bring?

It’s August and, no shocker here, HOT! Dress for warm weather. We do not allow chairs, tents, coolers, etc. We will provide plenty of indoor and outdoor seating, and the lawns at the Capitol provide lovely shade.

How has the Book Festival grown since the first year?

By the numbers, we doubled our attendance from the first to second year. We never know how many people will actually attend, but we expect to exceed last year’s number.

What are you excited about for this year?

I love everything about the festival! Everyone is so enthusiastic about participating. The Library of Congress is not only bringing an exhibit, but they are also bringing the actual Librarian of Congress (Dr. Carla Hayden)! One of the highlights, though, is to attend the kids’ programs. Nothing is more heartwarming than watching young readers squeal with glee during a good storytelling session or when meeting their favorite author.

Any fun memories from the Book Fest so far?

I have many great memories. I think the most vivid was when we hosted the luncheon the first year at Hal and Mal’s. I stopped moving and right in front of me were John Grisham, Greg Iles, and John Evans seated at a table, and Ellen Gilchrist had her arms around all of them. I realized how much talent was in the room. The breadth and depth of our own writers overwhelmed me. Fortunately, the photographer was right beside me and got the shot. That’s a lot of literary love in one photo.

first book fest festival

Besides the author panels, what else can people look forward to?

We have two great musical acts this year! Malaco Gospel singer Darrell Luster and also the fabulous stage band, No Strings, with some special guests, will perform. There will be many food trucks and lots of lawn seating. We have a Kids Corner with a special guest reader at 10:45 a.m. and free popsicles for all the kids there. The exhibitors and booksellers are going to put their best faces forward. It promises to be a full day, inside and out.

What about activities for children?

Kids and teenagers will be the center of attention in lots of ways this year! Our Kids Corner will have interactive exhibits from the Mississippi Children’s Museum. Children’s authors Candace Fleming and Caldecott medalist Eric Rohmann and First Lady Deborah Bryant will share their books. Discussion panels composed of over 20 authors will focus on early childhood literacy, illustration, and young and middle grade readers, and we will recognize the Magnolia Book Award Winners. There will also be a Family Storytelling Room inside the Capitol with acclaimed storytellers from across the state, and the Youth Media Project will feature teenagers using digital technology to produce multimedia projects and share their own stories.

How does the Book Festival support local authors?

We encourage participation from local authors in many ways. Some are official panelists, some serve as moderators, some are featured in Authors Alley, and others serve as volunteers.

Why should people come out to the Book Festival?

Books connect us in so many ways. It is always refreshing to me, personally, to discover a friend or neighbor who enjoys the same author or book I have read. It gives us something in common and bonds us. Imagine 7,500 people excited about the same thing and happy to be celebrating it? With the current political climate, the book festival is a welcome respite.

Why is it important to have events like the Book Festivalin Mississippi?

Mississippi falls to the bottom of many lists. We feel like we owe it to our community and our state to highlight and celebrate one of the things we do best. Say what you will about Mississippi, but no one can argue with the quality and quantity of writers we produce.

Any other Book Festival events that are happening this weekend?

There is so much excitement to share all weekend! Bookfriends of the University Press of Mississippi are kicking off the weekend with a Mississippi Bicentennial and Mississippi Encyclopedia party at Cathead Distillery . Fischer Galleries is hosting events both Thursday and Friday nights. The MississippiMuseum of Art is having themed events all weekend, including a movie night and a special menu by Nick Wallace. Saturday night is the Willie Morris After-party featuring Thacker Mountain Radio. We are very appreciative of all the public support for the festival.

What about merchandise?

Our official artist this year is the fabulous H.C. Porter. Her image, “L.C. Ulmer” appears on the commemorative poster, print, and t-shirt. Merchandise will be for sale in the center of the festival.

Anything else we need to know about this year’s MS BookFestival?

It is FREE and open to the public. No tickets are required. There is lots of public parking in the Woolfolk Building downtown. Join us for another great Literary Lawn Party!

Check out for more info! We can’t wait to see you there!

Friendship in a Foreign Land: ‘The Confusion of Languages’ by Siobhan Fallon

Maybe if you only understand half of what a person says, you can more readily read the sincerity of their gestures. Maybe language is much less important than I think it is, and therefore much less frightening.

When Margaret Brickshaw and her husband arrive in Jordan, Cassie Hugo thinks she might have finally found a friend. But the two have little in common besides being military wives who have followed their husbands to the Middle East. Cassie is a play-it-safe rule-follower, while Margaret prefers to ignore the cultural norms and explore on her own. When a fender bender sends Margaret to the police station one afternoon, Cassie is left to watch her baby boy. Hours pass without any word from Margaret, and, desperate to figure out what’s wrong, Cassie finds her diary and begins piecing together the person she thought she knew.

confussion of languagesThe Confusion of Languages by Siobhan Fallon (author of  the short story collection You Know When the Men Are Gone) is a novel that absolutely surprised me. This tale of friendship in a foreign land hooked me from page one. Fallon’s writing and amazing sense of voice make each character come alive. The story alternates between Cassie’s narration in the present and Margaret’s diary entries. Each woman is so well-developed and their relationship feels extremely realistic.

Both outcasts in their own way, Cassie and Margaret band together out of survival. However, the women’s friendship is anything but pretty. Cassie resents Margaret’s life—her dutiful husband, the baby she can’t have—and Margaret isn’t fond of Cassie’s paranoid nature. But both have marriages that are straining under the weight of infertility or distrust. Fallon’s portrayal of a military marriage is eye-opening and raw.
One of the best parts of this book is the setting. I thoroughly enjoyed the rich details about Jordan, which made me feel like I was there. Fallon actually lived as a military wife in Jordan, so the descriptions of the people, places, and food feel real. It was fascinating to learn about the Jordanian culture and what is considered acceptable and inappropriate in that society. I think Fallon did a great job of interpreting the experience of an American living in such a different place and trying to fit in.

It was also interesting to learn about what was happening in Jordan and the Middle East in 2011, when the novel takes place. Events that would seem insignificant to Americans are immediate dangers to the characters. The political situation is as much a character in the novel because it often affects the decisions of the protagonists. Cassie and Margaret, opposite in attitude, represent the tension between wanting to enjoy life in a different country and battling the fear of foreign dangers.

Overall, this is a beautiful, well-written story about how kindness, friendship, and otherness translate between cultures. You’ll fall in love with these two women and will want to keep turning the page to see where their story goes.

Submerged Secrets: ‘Into the Water’ by Paula Hawkins

In a small, English town runs a river with a dark past.

into the waterWhen Nel Abbott jumps to her death in the river, she leaves behind her teenage daughter. Nel’s sister, Jules, comes to take care of her, returning to a town she was desperate to run away from. But this isn’t the first person to turn up dead in the water. The river has claimed the lives of several women over the years, and most recently, a teenage girl. However, not everyone is mourning the death of Nel, who was writing a book about the river’s past and dredging up memories the town would rather put to rest. Was someone desperate enough to keep secrets hidden…that they pushed her? Or is there something more sinister in the water that draws these women in?

Told from multiple perspectives, Into the Water by Paula Hawkins, is a page-turning mystery where just about everyone has a motive. Hawkins has a talent for crafting a quietly eerie tale that keeps you wanting more. I really enjoyed her breakout book, The Girl on the Train, as well as the movie, so I knew I had to pick up her newest one. And honestly, I think this one is even better than her first.

Hawkins does an excellent job creating complex and believable narrators that fuel the story. It wasn’t hard to picture the people of this strange town and to understand their pain and motivations. Hawkins handled switching perspectives really well, giving each character a unique voice and insight that actually added to the plot, instead of confusing the reader. I’m not always a fan of multiple narrators, but I liked how Hawkins did it in this book.

I particularly liked reading from the perspective of the victim’s sister, Jules Abbot. Her flashbacks of growing up in the shadow of her perfect sister really pulled me in. It was interesting how Hawkins played with the idea of memory and that how we remember the past can be more significant than what actually happened.

Water-Ripple-3If the characters don’t draw you in, the setting certainly does. The small town trying to ignore its own tragic past (which involves drowning accused witches) sets a creepy tone for the story. I liked how Hawkins includes excerpts from Nel Abbott’s unpublished book about the girls who died in the river. It really added to the idea of the river being a character in the story and kept me wondering what was behind these suicides.

Like her first novel, Hawkins’ writing is deeply engaging. While it’s not extremely fast-paced, the story definitely keeps moving. Much like the river that this book centers around, things appear calm on the surface, but there’s a lot going on underneath. Into the Wateris a quiet, yet deeply-satisfying book.

I would recommend this book for anyone who liked Girl on the Train, but also, for anyone looking for a well-written English mystery.

Call of the Wild: ‘The Stranger in the Woods’ by Michael Finkel

Do you ever think about getting away from the world? Ever contemplate taking a break and relaxing out in the woods by yourself for while? Well, one guy decided to do just that…for 27 years.

stanger in the woodsThe Stranger in the Woods by Michael Finkel is the true story of the hermit Christopher Knight. In 1986, 20-year-old Knight decided to completely leave society and disappear into the woods of Maine. For the next three decades, Knight lived completely by himself, surviving by pilfering off the summer cabins that surrounded the nearby lake. To the locals, he became known as the North Pond Hermit. It wasn’t until 2013 that a determined resident finally caught him stealing food from the lake’s summer camp, and the hermit and his hideout were revealed.

Okay, so this story, which seems almost too bizarre to be true, is extremely fascinating. Journalist Finkel, after hearing about Knight’s arrest and his strange claim to have been by himself for that many years, began sending letters and eventually visited Knight in jail. By gaining Knight’s trust, Finkel was able to delve further into the mind of the hermit.

Finkel expertly tells this nonfiction tale. He spends each chapter focused on a particular element of Knight’s experience: how he survived, what his camp was like, his stealing escapades, and even the differing opinions of the locals. Woven throughout is Finkel’s personal interactions with Knight. It was interesting to read about Knight trying to adapt and re-enter a society that had changed so much.


What I found most fascinating about this story was how Finkel used outside sources to create a rich discussion of the various types of hermits and why people choose a life of solitude. What’s interesting is how Knight doesn’t feel he quite fits into any particular kind of hermit. Was he trying to make a political statement? Was he on a spiritual or creative quest? No, Knight says, he just felt like doing it.

Finkel also brings in expert opinions to try and identify Knight’s mental state and why he had such a low need for human interaction. Apart from a brief encounter with a hiker in the mid-90s, in which he said a simple “hi,” Knight never talked to a single person for almost 30 years.

hate people

It may be hard to believe that Knight was able to be on his own for so long, that he committed over a thousand burglaries before getting caught, that he never had any serious injuries, or that he was able to survive the brutal winters of Maine without ever lighting a fire. Despite his abnormal tendencies, Knight is actually an intelligent man. He’s definitely someone who questions social norms and is quite open about his beliefs. Though I think Finkel kind of romanticizes Knight a little too much, there is still a lot the reader can learn from his solitary experience. Clearing out the noise and taking in the sounds of nature actually added significantly to Knight’s mind and health. He spent time reading books and simply being.

He was confounded by the idea that passing the prime of your life in a cubicle, spending hours a day at a computer, in exchange for money, was considered acceptable, but relaxing in a tent in the woods was disturbed. Observing the trees was indolent; cutting them down was enterprising. What did Knight do for a living? He lived for a living.

Overall, this book is one I couldn’t put down. If you enjoy true stories or documentaries of strange people, then this is the book for you. Maybe after you read it, you’ll want to go out and live in the woods by yourself for a while, too. But, please, don’t start breaking into people’s homes and stealing their food.

We Lived Our Little Drama: Michael Knight’s ‘Eveningland’

Lately, I’ve been in the mood for short stories, so I found it the perfect time to pick up Eveningland, the latest from Michael Knight. I haven’t read his work before, but Knight is known for his ability to weave an engaging novella. Sure enough, his new book is a perfect example of beautiful southern storytelling.

eveninglandEveningland is a collection of Alabama short stories that mostly take place around Mobile and the Gulf Coast area. A teenage girl holding a thief hostage in her home. A young art teacher trying to figure out her life. A vengeful husband. A boy with a summer crush. Knight does a skillful job of connecting these seemingly unrelated stories into a tale about the complexities of life in all its forms.

I’ve quickly become a fan of Knight’s writing. From page one, his prose pulled me in, and I found myself reading several stories in one sitting. I love the way he plays around with perspective, choosing various narrators and points of view to tell each story. His writing is clear and to the point, while also quietly poetic. Each sentence flows perfectly into the next, and the rhythm often reminded me of waves lapping along the Alabama beaches.

wavesMy favorite story was “The King of Dauphin Island,” in which a real estate tycoon seeks to buy up and restore the crumbling island after the death of his wife. Relationships are at the heart of this collection, and I couldn’t help but care for each of the characters, though their struggles varied from infidelity to navigating middle-aged life.

I also appreciate how Knight framed the story with events such as the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and Hurricane Raphael. He manages to put a face with the impact these events had on a personal level. I may not be from Alabama, but as a Mississippian who has visited Mobile and Dauphin Island numerous times, I think the stories have a vivid sense of place. Knight captures the essence of the area through his descriptions of the land and through his use of voice.

Overall, Eveningland is a well-written collection that demonstrates how life goes on through heartbreak and change. I would recommend it for anyone in need of some good southern short stories. I’m sure I’ll be picking up more of Knight’s works soon.

Micheal Knight will  serve as a panelist on the “Stories from the South” discussion at the Mississippi Book Festival on Saturday, August 19 at 10:45 a.m. at the State Capitol in Room 201A.

Take a literary road trip with Margaret Eby’s ‘South Toward Home’

One of my favorite areas of the Lemuria store is the Southern fiction section. Nestled in a corner of the fiction room behind a bust of Eudora Welty, this part of the store is one I love to explore. From Rick Bass to Alice Walker, and everyone in between, the shelves are filled with some of the best writers that speak to my southern spirit. So when I came across Margaret Eby’s South Toward Home, I was instantly intrigued.

South Toward Home, whose title is a play off Willie Morris’ North Toward Home, is a literary road map of the South. From Oxford and Jackson to New Orleans and Gainesville, Eby takes you on a tour of some sites with famous southern author connections. Eudora Welty’s garden, William Faulkner’s liquor cabinet, and John Kennedy Toole’s hot-dog carts are just a few of the places covered. Eby does an excellent job of describing each setting, drawing upon text from the authors’ works to show if and how their surroundings influenced their writing.

I love how Eby was able to tie her personal travel journey into her literary discoveries. She expertly planted me in a place by describing how it looked in the present, while also weaving in quotes from the author to create a rich history of the landmark. I enjoyed getting to travel to places near and far with Eby, in particular, Eudora Welty’s garden. I loved hearing Eby’s take on this local treasure. I learned more about the authors I’ve read and got to know the ones I’m not that familiar with. Eby’s research, as well as her own reading experiences, made me want to read more of not just the authors she mentioned, but also more southern writers in general.

I especially appreciated how Eby compared these landmarks. She discussed how one writer’s house may have been turned into a museum, while another was torn down. Some towns proudly use an author’s spot as a tourist attraction, while others are hesitant to acknowledge its existence. It was interesting to see how certain places have changed over the years and how the community has responded to them.

peacocksOne of my favorite chapters of Eby’s journey was the one about Flannery O’Connor’s peacocks. It was entertaining to read about her house in Georgia where she raised all sorts of birds and where her peacocks still roam today. Having background information about O’Connor and the other southerners mentioned gives me a better understanding of their writing and what inspired them.

Whether you’re new to Southern fiction or a long-term reader of those below the Mason-Dixon, Eby’s road trip will inspire a literary pilgrimage of your own.


Lemuria also has a very limited number of signed first editions of South Toward Home available here.

Gifting the Perfect Book: For Lovers of the Fantastical

The Christmas season has officially begun!


It’s time to start picking out those perfect bookish gifts for the special people in your life, and Lemuria is here to help!


To kick off the recommendations, I’ve got a fantastic series that you can give to any picky teenager or adult with a love of the magical.

Leigh Bardugo is one of my favorite authors in the Young Adult genre, and her Grisha trilogy takes the cake as THE fantasy series that I just can’t get enough of.


shadow-and-boneThe first book in the Grisha trilogy is Shadow and Bone, which introduces you to Bardugo’s dark and beautifully-developed world. The country of Ravka, which is reminiscent of Imperial Russia, is split in two by an expanse of darkness called the Shadow Fold. Monsters threaten anyone trying to make it across to the other side. When Alina Starkov, a humble cartographer for the Ravkan army, travels across the Shadow Fold, her best friend is attacked and injured, forcing Alina to release a power she didn’t know she had. Alina is revealed to be a Grisha. Grisha can control certain elements, heal, or even stop a person’s heart, but Alina’s ability is rare, even in the Grisha world. She is taken to train with the rest of the Grisha under the mysterious Darkling. There she learns the secrets of this elite world and what part she plays in it.

The Grisha trilogy—Shadow and BoneSiege and Storm, and Ruin and Rising—tell an epic, compelling tale of love and adventure that will have you binging the whole series.

six-of-crowsBardugo’s other series, the Six of Crows duology, is also set in the Grisha world, but it centers around a new cast of characters in the trade city of Ketterdam. Six of Crowsfollows six outcasts as they try to pull off a massive heist. There’s Kaz—the ringleader who has a knack for picking locks; Inej—the silent spy known as the Wraith; Jesper—a sharpshooter with a gambling problem; Nina—a Grisha Heartrender trying to survive the slums; Matthias—a convict who wants revenge; and Wylan—a runaway with a privileged past. Each member has something to gain if they can pull off the heist, but they will have to keep from killing each other first.

The duology (Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom) is action-packed and takes turns telling the story from all six points of view. You won’t be able to put these books down!

You don’t have to read the Grisha trilogy before the Six of Crowsbooks, but it does help to already know about the world before you dive in. Plus, there are some fun Easter eggs for those who have read the original books.

I have to say that Bardugo is amazing at world building. She creates a very intricate culture for each country you travel to in the series, including customs, languages, food, etc. I enjoyed reading about the Russian-like Ravka, but I especially loved getting to explore the other countries in the Six of Crows duology. Bardugo’s use of all the senses and even how she adds in slang for certain cultures makes you feel like these places really do exist.

crooked-kingdomBut what I love about Bardugo’s books the most are her diverse cast of characters. She creates complex, flawed characters that draw you in. From the mysterious and swoon-worthy Darkling to the criminals in Six of Crows, you can’t help but fall in love with each of them.

I recommend Leigh Bardugo’s books for any young adult reader (young and old) that enjoys fantasy and adventure with some romance. I must also mention that the cover art for these books is GORGEOUS! The Six of Crows duology also has some beautiful black- and red-tinted pages. A great addition to any bookshelf!

BONUS: Here’s a picture of me getting to meet Leigh Bardugo in Austin, TX this October! 😀


Be More Present with ‘Present Over Perfect’ by Shauna Niequist

Are you constantly on the move? Do you wish you could feel more connected to the people around you? Do you feel like you have settled for “busy”?

present-over-perfectWell, Shauna Niequist knows how you feel. Her new Christian non-fiction book, Present Over Perfect, dives right into the idea that a busy life doesn’t necessarily mean a full life.

After decades of hustling to keep her life together, Shauna realized she was falling apart. What she thought was giving her meaning was actually robbing her of experiencing contentment and love. So, Shauna began to rebuild her life on the idea that purpose doesn’t necessarily come from busyness. Instead, she set out to reclaim a more still and present way of being.

The tagline, “leaving behind frantic for a simpler, more soulful way of living,” accurately sums up this book. Shauna tells her story in a natural, honest way that I couldn’t help but identify with. From the moment that I saw the opening Mary Oliver poem, I knew I was going to like this book, and it definitely has been what I needed to read during this season of my life.

Through beautiful anecdotes and water analogies, Shauna explains the mess and the beauty of this “sea-change”—the transformation from a person of productivity into a person of moments. She explains how she had to relearn what it meant to live a meaningful life and where we find our identity and worth.

She discusses the idea that business and work are usually our way of outrunning pain and heartache in our lives. We don’t want to stop, because we are afraid of what we will see and hear and feel if we do. “I learned a long time ago that if I hustle fast enough, the emptiness will never catch up with me,” Shauna says. “Hustle is the opposite of heart.”

Shauna says she was “trusting [her] ability to hustle more than God’s ability to heal.” She identifies how Christians so often get burnt out and justify their busyness in the church, and admits that she is guilty of “fake resting.” She stresses the importance of self-care and how productivity can become an idol that keeps us from loving ourselves—and the ones around us—well.

Shauna realized that her relationships were suffering because she wasn’t fully present. By breaking down her life to what is most important to her, she found some life-changing truth: “Now I know that the best thing I can offer to this world is not my force or energy, but a well-tended spirit, a wise and brave soul.”

Staying still in a world that praises busyness and mindless work is a courageous act, according to Shauna. “Sometimes being brave is being quiet. Being brave is getting off the drug of performance,” she says. I love that she talked about how hard it is to say “no,” yet how essential it is. She challenges the reader to go against what we’ve come to accept as the correct way to live and get to the heart of what’s important.

Shauna paints a beautiful picture of her life after this change. Shooting hoops with her two boys, family time out on the lake, lazy Saturday mornings with her husband. She is able to capture and experience more. What seem like insignificant moments are what she now holds most dear. But Shauna explains that this journey is a process: “What I’m learning, essentially, is to stand where I am, plain and sometimes tired. Unflashy, profoundly unspectacular. But present and connected and grounded deeply in the love of God, which is changing everything.”

While this book centers around Shauna’s faith and is written for a Christian audience, I think even those who are not religious would enjoy it because it is about simplifying and finding joy in the small scenes of life—something I think we are all in need of. Fans of Brene Brown and Elizabeth Gilbert will eat up Shauna’s words and soon be highlighting paragraphs like I did.

If you enjoy Present Over Perfect, be sure to check out Shauna Niequist’s other books: Cold TangerinesBittersweetBread & Wine, and her Savor devotional.

Page 1 of 2

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén