Thursday, October 18, 2007

a couch, a tissue, and Cold Tangerines

Have you ever run into someone from your childhood who you weren't really friends with, but suddenly as adults you find you have a ton in common and totally click and you start thinking, "Gosh, to think I missed out on all those years with this person!"? Well, that sort of happened to me, though I'm going on the assumption that she's as cool in person as she is in her writing, and she's a writer to boot.

So Shauna Niequist and I were pastors' kids together, if by together you mean that we were pastors' kids at the same time and in the same place. We never actually did anything together--connections like that aren't always made when your church is ten thousand people in it. I remember being asked once if we were best friends, and if our families hung out all the time. Um, no. I can count on one hand the conversations she and I had, and I don't think I actually talked to her father until eight years ago when the church did a big send-off for my dad when my parents moved to California. But you know, it's a shame, really, because I think we both experienced a lot of the same trauma from living in a fishbowl and having fathers who were so...not just well-known, but revered. That puts a lot of pressure on a kid.

Anyway, fast-forward to a month or two ago when I get an email from Shauna asking if I'd like to review her new book. Y'all know me, I'll read anything, so of course I said yes and a week later the FedEx guy dropped Cold Tangerines on my front step. I wasn't in the middle of reading anything else, so I plunked myself on the couch when Abby went down for her nap and started in.


Okay, first of all, it's not fiction, and that's a huge step for me. But it IS story--personal story, life story, think a really, really good blog in book form--and the fact that Shauna can write so honestly about the pain she's experienced and the struggles she's had just blows me away. It's like when I read Claudia's blog; I just marvel at her willingness to strip emotionally and spiritually naked for the whole world to see. Shauna's the same way: no pretense, no vague, teasing phrasing to make you wonder if she's talking about what you think she's talking about--just honesty conveyed in beautiful but completely accessible prose that makes it darn near impossible to put down the book.

Oh, and I didn't put it down, by the way. Dan had Abby duty the rest of the day while I turned pages on the sofa and cried my eyes out.

I'm not sure about the whole crying thing, either. I don't know, maybe it was just pregnancy hormones, but I think it may have had something to do with how Shauna said things I've always wanted to say but was afraid to admit. And how I was starting to realize that I had her figured all wrong when we were kids, and it put me in mourning a little bit for the friendship that we might have had if things had been different. And it might have had something to do with how perfectly she captures the emotions of motherhood and marriage and grieving and celebration.

It didn't take long--though it did take half a box of tissues--for me to finish the book and send it off straightaway to a friend I thought could use it. She's emerging from a dark period in her life and needs to see the world through fresh eyes. She needs to celebrate her arrival into a life she never thought she'd have, and at its heart Cold Tangerines is about celebration--about late nights on porches with good wine and good friends and good conversation, about new lives through marriage and new lives of babies, about finding your voice and your passion and your purpose after too much time buried under a job that doesn't fit.

Oh, and you should read the descriptions of the meals this woman cooks. Why oh why does she live in Michigan and not here???

So the next time you need a good read, or know someone else who does (it's hardbound so it makes a really beautiful gift), please pop over to your favorite book-buying joint and pick up Cold Tangerines. And since you're already on the Internet, you might as well pop over to her brand new blog and tell her a quick hello and drool over the photo of her adorable son.

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