Ann Voskamp, an author and blogging mom of six homeschooled children, has penned a lyrical memoir that is taking the evangelical reading world by storm. She writes in a part poetry/part essay format, seamlessly weaving the two together in beautifully descriptive phrases that will have readers rereading passages just for the pure pleasure of speaking the words aloud.
Voskamp tells her life story by reliving the tragic death of her sister, who was hit by a truck in front of her and her mother. She shares in emotional detail how the family responded to this tragedy as the years unfolded; for her part, Voskamp says she developed "trust" issues with God. Her father lost his faith, and her mother eventually entered a psychiatric hospital. Over the years, Voskamp recounts the continued struggle to make sense of this and other tragedies in light of faith in a good God. She tells us her despair as a college student who simply wanted to bleed the pain out.
As a married mom, Voskamp also shares a conversation she had with her brother-in-law whom she watched bury his first two sons. She peered closely into his face and puzzled again over matters of faith and trust and the love of a gracious God. When a friend challenges Voskamp to make a list of a thousand things for which she is thankful in her everyday life, she does so. And in a swirl of renewed love for life and for God, a friend later comments on the "change" in her. What makes this list so significant is that Voskamp ties the biblical principle of giving thanks in all things (for all things) together so beautifully with the Communion table that readers will wonder how they didn't see the life connection earlier on. Voskamp offers readers scattered items off of her gifts list, and every one sparkles with a joyous glow of glory.
Surprisingly, Voskamp doesn't fill the entirety of the book with her thousand gifts, and about midway through the text, she concludes her list…but not her thanksgiving. At first, she wonders if, now that she has completed the "challenge" of finishing her list, she will fall back into a spirit of ungratefulness or despair. But Voskamp continues on stronger than before and cites the value of habit and discipline of giving thanks as one that has altered her from the inside out.
Powerfully written and beautifully offered, every chapter of this lovely inspirational text will both encourage and challenge readers. Voskamp's writing is so emotionally evocative that this merit alone will appeal to Christ followers who seek to live as survivors in a difficult and pain-ridden world. Yet Voskamp's work is equally as biblically robust, and that pairing makes ONE THOUSAND GIFTS an invaluable read.
Reviewed by Michele Howe on January 17, 2011