Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Book review - One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp


Anyone that reads my main blog will know that I am an optimist and that I choose to live a life full of gratitude. At the beginning of 2011 I started the Reasons to be Cheerful linky as I wanted to encourage other bloggers to look on the bright side of life and to choose to be happy, satisfied and content. I've known for some time now that when we actively seek reasons to thank God for all the blessings we receive in our life that things look better.

I recall Ann Voskamp's One Thousand Gifts (A dare to live fully right where you are) book being first released back in 2011 and all my Christian friends kept telling me I must read it and it 'was so me' and I resisted. I don't meant to sound big-headed but I just wondered what else it would give me, I didn't have a lack of gratitude. I look for the grace in the small things, I notice the coy look on my daughters face, the smell of the fresh bed linen and the way frost glimmers on the morning grass.

So I surprised myself when I said yes to reviewing the book a couple of months ago, I'm no less grateful than I've ever been but I have come to a place where I find my writing more faith focused and I was wondering whether I would continue with Reasons to be Cheerful as a linky or if I would get back to the roots where it started - Grace in small things. I thought Ann Voskamp's book might help me to know which direction I must go in.

Sadly, I found One Thousands Gifts so very difficult to read. I love reading and normally can get into a book easily and then it is hard to put it down until I am read right through. That was not the case with this book, I laboured over reading it, just a few pages at a time and finding no enthusiasm for it at all. I can appreciate that Ann Voskamp is an artist in the way she writes, it is a very individual style and certainly one that I expect women warm to more than men. She really plays with words and as a simple kind of girl it all gets a bit too complex and poetic for me I'm afraid. The one good point I'd say is that because her writing style is complex you do have to slow down and savour her words to be able to take them in, scan read it and you will miss the points she hopes to make.

Here is a short extract from the first page to give you an idea of how her writing flows -

A glowing sun-orb fills an August sky the day this story begins, the day I am born, the day I begin to live. 
And I fill my mother’s tearing ring of fire with my body emerging, virgin lungs searing with air of this earth and I enter the world like every person born enters the world: with clenched fists. 
From the diameter of her fullness, I empty her out—and she bleeds. Vernix-creased and squalling, I am held to the light.
Ann Voskamp does have an interesting story to tell, she starts with the death of her sister and how this tainted her life and led her to live with ingratitude for a long time. As you read the book you are taken on a journey as Voskamp starts to change and realise her need for gratitude and not just when the going is good but also when times are hard. One thing I will take from the book is the use of the word Eucharisteo, which is the Greek word for thanksgiving and of course comes from the Eucharist that we partake in as Christians to come together and give thanks for Jesus and all He did for us and the forgiveness of our sins. I've always loved communion but if I'm honest I have previously associated it more with repentance and forgiveness than I have with thanksgiving despite the words that are spoken in preparation.

When you first read the title of the book you would be forgiven for thinking that it will be about the 1000 places that Voskamp has found gratitude and Gods grace and whilst she does share some of the gifts she recognises in her own life, gifts like 1) morning shadows across old floors, 2) jam piled high on the toast and 3) cry of blue jay from high in the spruce the book is actually far more autobiographical in style.

I have to say that I can't imagine reading this book again so I am happy to pass it on to a friend who is more poetic than I am. In the interests of balance I wanted to publish a couple of quotes here from blogger friends that I was discussing the book with recently -

Claire at Clarina's Contemplations - "It's fabulous, takes a while to get into the flowery language but it's brill"

Sara from Walking with Angels - "The book had a tremendous impact on me, it changed the way I view my life"

Disclosure: I received this

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