bread & wine

When I was at the Glen Workshop last summer, there were several of us twenty- and thirty-something ladies who were in attendance because we wanted to take a class with Lauren Winner. Which, if you think about it, is not all that surprising: Lauren’s book Girl Meets God was a touchstone for me and for many of my friends. What was more surprising to me was that many of us were writing similar stories about moving away from our evangelical upbringing. We joked that we had enough material in the room to write Jesus Girls 2.

After I got home, I thumbed through my copy of Jesus Girls, which still has post-it notes in it from the first time I read it (I don’t really believe in writing in books). I noticed that some of the names are more familiar to me now, including the name Shauna Niequist. I haven’t read any of Shauna’s books and I don’t follow her blog, but I feel a kinship with other Jesus Girls, and I happily agreed to review her new book, Bread & Wine. It sounded perfect for a communion-obsessed person like me. I couldn’t wait to hear her thoughts on the sacrament of sharing food.

Bread & Wine reminded me most of A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg. Shauna structures her story around food shared with friends and favorite recipes. She draws you into her story with the details she shares, making the flavors and smells live in your mind. She made me want to put something on the stove, open a bottle of wine, and have friends over. I am less comfortable hosting company than Shauna clearly is, so I appreciated the challenge and her hosting tips at the end. It also made me think about important recipes in my own life: the pumpkin chocolate chip muffins that are my go-to baked good, the shrimp and grits that changed the way we look at food, the ritual of Friday night pizza, and the black bean cakes that we recently shared with friends.

I wished, as I was reading it, that the stories had been structured in a different way. The order seemed random–not quite chronological, not quite grouped by types of food. Jumping back and forth in time made the book fall a little bit flat to me, especially in the second half. I also thought that the stories of Shauna’s travels felt out-of-place at times, almost as if they belonged in their own book rather than one about shared life at the table.

My husband and I met when we worked together in a Christian bookstore. Did I stop being a Jesus Girl because I worked there, or was it a natural progression of cynicism that would have happened anyway? I am not sure. It’s been a long time since I lived in that world, and I admire the way that Shauna presents her life as real and unpolished, which is not what I remember about the books I used to sell. There were things that didn’t totally work for me in Bread & Wine, but I am thankful that books like Shauna’s are being published by Zondervan. This book is above and beyond what I would have seen in my Christian bookstore days, and I recommend it for anyone who has enjoyed Shauna’s other books or who enjoys reflective writing about food.

I received a review copy of this book but all my opinions are my own.

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