One Thousand Gifts… Just as Many Complaints

Review by Donna Lee Schillinger
Ann Voskamp’s debut book, One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are, is truly a beautiful piece of writing, and highly recommended for women who love poetry but have a harder time getting into nonfiction devotional reading. It’s a seamless amalgamation of the two, as Voskamp recounts her journey to learning gratitude in a highly creative and aesthetical weaving.
The issues that Voskamp addresses in her past and daily life have surely resonated with many women, particularly of the twenty to forty age ranges. In fact, Voskamp is almost iconic of this age Christian woman. Being a pig farmer’s wife and homeschooling five children gives her additional color – and her talent with words is undeniably outstanding – but I believe most women will be able to really relate to Voskamp. Indeed, the book sales have shown this to be the case.
Voskamp has a way of nailing those feelings of inadequacy and excuses we make for ourselves – thoughts that plague many women in the deep parts of the brain, though they might never have articulated them. Of why women worry she writes, “Easier to let a mind run wild with the worry than to exercise discipline, to reign her in, slip the blinders on and train her to walk steady in certain assurance, not spooked by the specters looming ahead.” And elsewhere, she urgently calls out on behalf of Christians everywhere, “…someone, please give me – who is born again but still so much in need of being born anew – give me the details of how to live in the waiting cocoon before the forever begins?”
Voskamp not only captures truths that previously have escaped words, she also lets flow that which most women have no trouble expressing on their own – complaints. Voskamp, as a Christian in Canada, happily married and mothering, and not needed to work outside, is among the most blessed of all people anywhere. (Period.) And this book is about her realization of that, to some extent. But those of us who recognized it by the end of chapter one are left with the impression that this “Ann, full of grace,” lacks grit. I would think this book a poor candidate to be translated into Vietnamese, Spanish or Mandarin, as readers in many parts of the world where these languages are spoken would just sit with mouths agape, perhaps wondering if this were not some sort of satire.
Voskamp’s book is timely as ingratitude is one of the major issues facing American Christians today. And unlike many other books that explore gratitude as if on a guided tour, Voskamp takes the reader off the beaten path and to the places most travelers have never seen. I found myself wondering, “What could the next chapter possibly be about? Hasn’t she said all there is to say on this subject?” One Thousand Gifts will take the reader on a deeper venture into gratitude – and the words along the way are five-star – but be sure to bring your earplugs in case the whining just gets to be too much.

One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are by Ann Voskamp.
240 pp. $16.00 (Amazon’s listing for $11.43) ISBN 0310321913 ©2010 Zondervan
Visit Ann Voskamp’s www.aholyexperience.com.

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