I’ve been wanting to read this book for months. It had been recommended to me by some lovely friends, who thought it’d be a lovely little book of inspiration in my life.
The book was pretty disappointing. It was kind of crushing in a way, to read and walk away frustrated and uninspired. I’d hoped for so much more.
Now, I know my definition of ‘radical’ can be a little – well, radical to a lot of people. I wasn’t expecting this book to be ‘radical’ – I was hoping it would be refreshing, engaging, and maybe a little inspiring.
The book follows blogger Haley Stewart’s move, with her family, to a farm in Texas. Her husband took an internship and they lived on the farm, in intern-housing for a year. At the end of the year, they decided not to pursue farming and moved back into city life.
The farm sounded like an interesting place. I was disappointed with the lack of information on it in The Grace of Enough. The farm merely provided a backdrop to more self-focused reflections.
After a bit of research, I learned that the farm is a Christian enterprise focusing on training future farmers in sustainable agriculture. They also partner with the community to provide food to low-income families. It’s pretty inspiring.
In the book, Stewart mentions that farm take interns and has non-flush toilets. She is very focused on the non-flush toilets. Just so you know, non-flush toilets are really not scary or overwhelming. I’ve potty-trained both my children on a composting outhouse and it is easy and clean, trust me!
Stewart brings up their indoor composting toilet throughout the book. It seems to fulfill the ‘token radical’ role – she uses it display just how unconventional their choices were. But really, non-flush toilets are pretty common, and pretty simple.
I used to follow Stewart’s blog, Carrots for Michaelmas, but drifted away as she spent more and more time advertising and promoting fast fashion and blogger bundles. I felt as though her blog continually marketed to me instead of inspiring me.
When I heard about this book, I was excited. I’d liked her writing years ago, and I loved the idea of a suburban mom rediscovering simplicity. But the book continually undercut it’s own message. Each little list of ideas is full of reminders that she doesn’t actually live this out. I do understand that people can be overwhelmed by the idea of perfection, but the tone of the book felt more and more like a balancing act. I felt sold to, like she’d jumped on the ‘simple living’ marketing train and was marketing it for consumption instead of build on it.
Along those lines, the action lists at the end of most chapters were vague and extremely basic. There are better lists on so many blogs. Each chapter is brief and shallow. They introduce good points but never build on them. I wish she’d taken the time to write a book that offered more. I also wish she’d taken the time to write in a more mature style. This book is casually written – somewhere between a facebook comment and a blog post, which makes it hard to read seriously.
Did I Like Anything About It?
So, after all that, is there anything worthwhile in this book? She links beauty, openness to life, and sustainability in the book. That’s healthy and essential. If she’d developed these links, I would have been thrilled.
Stewart also includes plenty of wisdom from Church encyclicals and literary figures. The great quotations are a joy to find throughout the text. If she had chosen to expand on her reflections, these quotes could have offered a great jumping off point for some deep discussions.
Honestly, I’d encourage you to skip this book. It doesn’t deliver anything you can’t find online, and it inspires a ‘good enough’ attitude that subverts the journey towards true sustainability.
One Comment Add yours
Thank you so much for your honest review! I find your thoughts really refreshing. I did enjoy The Grace of Enough, but I also probably fit Stewart’s target audience (city-dwelling millennial who greatly enjoys and appreciates the conveniences of technology) a bit more and have a lot more to learn about simple living. I DID find the continual references to the compost toilet a bit much, though-I’ve never tried a compost toilet, but I’m very much intrigued by them and I already use cloth wipes in the bathroom anyway (the rest of the family still uses toilet paper though), so I’d be okay with trying a semi-unconventional approach to the bathroom, I think.
Your mention of wanting her to take more time with the book really resonates with me. I will confess that (as most writers out there, I’m guessing!) I’d love to write a book-but lately have been rather discouraged by the industry. At least in the Catholic writing world, it seems that many books catered to “average/everyday/living-in-the-world Catholics” are churned out extremely quickly. It seems like I’m always seeing bloggers or podcasters post online about writing contracts and publishing a book mere months later. There have been many Catholic books I’ve read in the past several months which I think greatly could have benefited from slower writing and more time for the author to really let the thoughts and reflections slowly ruminate and go deeper. That being said, not every person will be drawn to every book, writing style, or approach. In a culture where many Catholics have been brought up on very lightweight, surface-level approaches to theology, there do need to be books that gradually draw folks in a little deeper (since some of them may not be ready for the extremely dense or heavy-hitting classic theologians). I do wish that more books out there catered towards my demographic-young city dwelling moms-dove deeper in an approachable manner.
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