“My advice to writers yearning for publication is to minimize description, and be sure you don’t stop the story while describing. You are a storyteller, not an interior decorator.” – Sol Stein, Stein on Writing
By Shauna Niequist
I needed this book. I didn’t realize it until about halfway through, but “better late than never.”
Painted with a “Faberge egg” brush – stunning, exquisite and slightly outrageous – cold tangerines (lower-cased) is divided into four parts. Stand-alone, first-person stories in each section include: spark, french class, carrying my own weight, lent and television, broken bottles, writing in pencil, island, and my favorite: old house.
Cold tangerines is spunky. Profound one moment, whimsical the next. At times you feel like you’re seated in the front row at the Improv; at others you’re sniffling and reaching for Kleenex. In each section the author sweeps us into her everyday life with pithy observations about family, unexpecteds, writing, Africa, vacations, friends: “True friendship is a sacred, important thing, and it happens when we drop down into that deeper level of who we are, when we cross over into the broken, fragile parts of ourselves… Friendship is acting out God’s love for people in tangible ways…, an opportunity to act on God’s behalf in the lives of the people we’re close to.”
Maybe what I like best about cold tangerines is that the author is Real. Genuine. Humorous, hearty. Disarmingly candid. She’s flawed and knows it. Niequist asks the tough questions and avoids the canned answers: “What if I’ve missed the cosmic bus to my best future because I was watching E!?” The author has an “eyes open” storytelling style about babies, loss, vulnerability, disappointment, being overweight, motherhood, heart attacks, “the healing effects of a barbecue” and jealousy “like a house fire.” The slice-of-life vignettes are Christian themed without being preachy or pompous. They reflect an author who’s cracked and chipped. Human and hopeful. Daring. Kinda kooky. Someone I can relate to.
This book is crunchy and quirky. As succulent as a cold tangerine on a scorching August afternoon. Reading this book is like walking into a dark living room on your birthday, bummed that no one remembered, and having people in party hats jump out and yell, “Surprise!”
I’m keeping an eye out for another serving.