Friday, March 30, 2012

One Thousand Gifts - Ann Voskamp

One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp
Zondervan 2011

Rating: 7
Readability: 5-9
Impact: 8

Read it Again: I think I underlined most of I will definitely go back and read those portions, at least. :-)
Recommend It? Yes

What to Expect

Not a a topical study on thankfulness. That's what I thought I was starting. Instead think memoir meets freestyle poetry, theology, and ramble all generally focused on living a life of daily thanksgiving.

Ann Voskamp's prose is sometimes riveting, lyrical, soaring, but generally painful as she goes over difficult events in her life. Sometimes there is a sentence that could stand as a poem, but that becomes less frequent as the book progresses. Her constant adjectives and adverbs trailing as after thoughts in her sentences became distracting and lurching.

One Thousand Gifts is challenging, truly a dare to repent of anger, bitterness, discontent, questioning, and depression without trivializing their reality and the pain they create. Even if her flowery descriptions and personality aren't your style, we all need to hear this stuff. Ideas must take on skin and turn into vibrant action. Faith is, after all, living a life full of thankfulness. And many of us are living as practical atheists. At least I don't think I'm standing alone...

My Squib

I needed this book. So I am thankful for it. :-)

Chapter 8 was particularly convicting for me starting from the first sentence... "God and I, we've got trust issues." Trust is work. Intentional and focused. Anything else is the notion that God's love ends. Constant gratitude builds up the muscles of trust.

There were portions I wanted to take and revel in for hours while others I had to trudge through. Particularly the last chapter. I think she gets a little off with her Communion analogies near the end. I think the book would have been stronger if she'd left most of the last chapter out except for a few paragraphs. It took me almost as long to read it as the rest of the book put together.

She uses a beautiful scattering of quotes from St. Augustine, G. K. Chesterton, and C.S. Lewis, among many other more obscure writers. It gives fresh perspectives and an eager, and humble flavor. While the quotes she uses are powerful, a few of the writers are much more well known for their heretical statements.

I think because of its memoir nature she does not build on ideas as strongly as she could. Although she points out very good and different aspects, I felt like much of the book was hammering her first thoughts over and over again. Her thoughts were good enough that it worked, and I needed to hear them over and over again, but sometimes I'd set it down wanting something more.

This is one person's journey on how she came to see the need and depth and joy of thanksgiving in all of life. It is not the same for everyone. It will look different. And this story won't appeal to some. But I think we can all learn a lot from it.

I have definitely been blessed by this book.

From the Book

"...I wonder too...if the rent in the canvas of our life backdrop, the losses that puncture our world, our own emptiness, might actually become places to see.
To see through to God.
That that which tears open our souls, those holes that platter our sight, may actually become the thin, open places to see through the mess of this place to the heart-aching beauty of beyond. To Him. To the God whom we endlessly crave." 

I believe this book has been a little controversial, so I'd love to hear your thoughts. :-)

Thanks for reading,


Happy Homemaker said...

It's on my to-read list.

Connie said...

Thanks for your review Bethany! I for one needed the message of this book, and heartily recommend it. The effort it required to get into the flow of her writing style was worth all the blood, sweat and tears ;-).

Miss Jack Lewis Baillot said...

I've never heard of this book before, so it was nice to read so en-depth a review.
Thankfulness is so easily over looked in a world of greed and selfishness and wanting. Wants become less if one looks at the things around them, and takes the time to thank God for them. Even reading your review was a plesant reminder of this.

Portugal said...

The main concept of this book was great, and one that I think will be helpful to a lot of people. However, I had quite a few problems with this book. I was disappointed that nearly everything the author listed as one of her "gifts" was something that could be seen or touched on this earth. Rarely did I see thankfulness for God's many promises. If we are truly thankful to God, I believe we will be thankful for Spiritual blessings, God's many benefits, in addition to the physical things He blesses us with. I was disappointed that the author's thankfulness list rarely included Spiritual blessings or answers to prayer, both of which I consider integral, even more important than physical things when giving thanks to God.

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