28/06/2016

One Thousand Gifts: Devotional (by Ann Voskamp)

Reading various blogs and links from Facebook, I sometimes find the same author recommended repeatedly. That was the case for Ann Voskamp, who - I learned - had written a thought-provoking book about being thankful, and keeping note of what the author was thankful for, seeing her life changed as a result. It sounded a bit basic, but I decided it might be an inspiring read, so I put it on my wishlist.

I was given, instead, the author’s ‘One Thousand Gifts Devotional’, which is in fact a companion volume to the original ‘One Thousand Gifts’. It’s a very attractive hardback book, which features sixty short (mostly 3-4 page) devotional thoughts and anecdotes detailing her growing ability to be thankful and to find God in everything. The author is the mother of six children, and married to a farmer. Life is sometimes chaotic and difficult, and she is honest about some of her struggles.

After each section are blank lines for the reader to jot down notes, or graces to be thankful for. At the back of the book are several more blank pages for further jottings. I decided that I would keep my notes elsewhere, so that the book stayed in good condition and could be lent to friends, and began with enthusiasm, thinking I could write down fifty or more things to be thankful for each day.

My list soon petered out; it was hard to remember what I’d already written down, and it seemed to me that the principle of being thankful was a lot more important than the act of making notes and trying to reach a thousand. It’s a good habit to begin; years ago I was reminded to start each day by thanking God for five things, and I had rather lost the practice.

As for the book itself, it made interesting reading, and I appreciated the insights into the author’s life. She notes ways of dealing with her children, finding God in nature, taking breaks from everyday life, and generally different ways of finding grace and blessing in her life. Much of it was inspiring, and I’m glad I read it.

Unfortunately, though, the style of writing is, in places, bizarre. Sometimes the short sentences and detailed description are almost poetic and helped me picture the scenes. At others, the word choices jarred badly. The author doesn’t seem to know how to use adverbs, and phrases such as ‘[he] smiled silly’ or ‘[she] pours her watering can careful…’ made me cringe, destroying the moment. In other sections, I couldn’t make any sense of what she was trying to say other than the general gist from context.

Still, the underlying ideas, the author’s discovery of God in the mundane and everyday life, and the picture of her relationship with her children are moving and sometimes thought-provoking, and overall I liked the book very much. I doubt if I’ll make the effort to get hold of the original ‘Thousand Gifts’ as I suspect the writing style might be similar. In short devotional thoughts, written somewhat in stream-of-consciousness style, I could mostly accept it. In a book with longer chapters, I think it would drive me to distraction.

I would recommend this to anyone wanting something a bit different, although it probably wouldn’t be of any interest to anyone without faith in God; there is plenty of Christian jargon and Scripture references which, to those outside the faith, would probably add to the confusion of the writing style. But I’m very glad I read it, and will keep the principles in my mind for some time to come.

Review by copyright 2016 Sue's Book Reviews

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