Bittersweet Introduction: Girlfriends

About a year ago (give or take), I picked up a copy of Shauna Niequist's book, Bittersweet. I don't know how to tell you about it, except to say that the whole book (even-- especially?-- the parts where I didn't see eye to eye with her) was like spending time with a girlfriend.

Now, I want to be clear: not all women friends are girlfriends. That's not to say those other relationships are unimportant. I'm grateful for mentors and colleagues, fellow hobbyists and buddies, but girlfriends are something distinct. There's a spiritual element to a girlfriend relationship for me. There's laughter, honesty, bickering, encouragement, but most of all, there's a willingness to know and love each other's souls.

Shauna's book (I know I ought to be using her last name, as she's the author, but doesn't that fly in the face of what I'm saying here?) isn't about girlfriends. It's about a holy awareness that life is bittersweet, which her introduction describes like this:
Bittersweet is the idea that in all things there is both something broken and something beautiful, that there is a sliver of lightness on even the darkest of nights, a shadow of hope in every heartbreak, and that rejoicing is no less rich when it contains a splinter of sadness.
As Shauna talks about the light and dark in her own life, intimate spiritual friendships are central to her stories. Even when her relationships aren't part of a particular chapter, the feelings and experiences she offers are exactly what we share with those special women who show us enough grace that we can grow in front of them (which generally involves being in pain in front of them).

A few months ago, I bought 5 more copies. I mailed them off to women I really like: a girlfriend from middle school, one from high school, one from college, and two women whom I've suspected for a while have girlfriend potential. Shauna's book felt like such an invitation to friendship that I wanted to use it to foster my own. Three of those five women are regular writers, and so I asked if they'd be willing to use Shauna's stories as springboards for their own. We're all having crazy summers, unexpectedly off-kilter, so I'm not sure exactly how this series will go, but it'll be an adventure.

I'm often not a good girlfriend. I'm slow to reply to email, liable to write a letter instead, making the recipient wait a good deal longer than she hoped. I get impatient, jealous, short-tempered, petty, and insecure. But I feel called to be a girlfriend. Truly, genuinely, called by God to honor those precious women that I laugh, cry and learn with.

I almost sent Bittersweet to a few of you bloggy friends, too. (There's a strong Texas contingent that nearly got a handful). If you feel so moved, pick up a copy, and join my other guest bloggers in our series. I suspect it'll go on for a while (if only because of lackadaisical planning on my part).


  1. do you think I would like it? Your review made me curious

  2. Diane, I'm honestly not sure. I think you'd like how honest she is. I think as a writer, she's easy to like as a human being. (Does that make sense?) I'm not sure you'd relate to her, which is the only reason I'd hesitate.

  3. I'm off to put together an Amazon supersaver that'll include this book--really excited about reading and participating, wish we could discuss it in real life face-to-face.

  4. River song: face to face is always better!

    I'll be really interested to know what you think. Nancy and I saw the book completely differently-- it'll be fun to see what it's about, to you.


"So keep fightin' for freedom and justice, beloveds, but don't you forget to have fun doin' it. Lord, let your laughter ring forth. Be outrageous, ridicule the fraidy-cats, rejoice in all the oddities that freedom can produce. And when you get through kickin' ass and celebratin' the sheer joy of a good fight, be sure to tell those who come after how much fun it was."
-Saint Molly Ivins