A Month of Sundays: Book Review

A Month of Sundays: Striding Toward Spiritual Refreshment One Sunday at a Time by Paula Hartman just came out in March and although filled with 100 plus recipes it’s truest gift is the insight into Sabbath and rest that it provides.

What a delightful fall read. It was perfect for a cold, rainy weekend. I chose it on a whim and I must admit that I am a sucker for any and all books that have recipes included. I just feel like recipes tell a story, food made with love and intention, that words sometimes cannot. In terms of recipes, this is a great place to start for new cooks; and I’d agree with Hartman that the recipes can be made right from a well stocked pantry. I’ll also add that I tend to like recipes that are a bit more complex then the ones you will find her or that rely less on canned or processed foods. That being said I love that these recipes are easily adaptable, and will adapt some to meet the tastes and needs of my family.

The other part of the underlying story that I just adore is that these are family recipes and that Hartman has made them her own, she has created menus that you can just implement from start to finish. Most include a main dish, a side dish and a dessert and just as she claims in her introduction they truly are a gift from Hartman to her reader. Each Sunday’s story is packed with insight, part of a larger woven tapestry of her life, but that each can be taken as a stand alone essay.

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The story itself is best viewed as a series of essays filled with anecdotes and spiritual insights about Sabbath. This timing really was ideal for me as I have been studying and pausing to examine being “present.” I am in need of rest, of a slowing down, and also to find rest in the in-between moments. Life is harried and crazy, but Sabbath is crucial and can be found if you are intentional. I love this quote from Hartman,

“Sabbath is a great time to do a little cooking. It is a time for comfort food and dessert. It is a time to create from scratch, to simmer and stew, to fill the house with the incense of home. Sabbath invites us to linger at the table and talk awhile. If the Sabbath finds us alone, the spirit of Sabbath will dine with us.”

While Hartman does appreciate the historical relevance and background of Sabbath she is prioritizing rest over tradition and speaks candidly and practically about how we can find Sabbath in our modern day lives. The story is a little rough around the edges. Hartman is not a New York Times best selling author and this book won’t make the best seller list. That being said I am walking away with more truth and information to explore and apply in my own life then I have in a while. I will return to these pages both for the recipes and for the wisdom steeped stories.

Here I am with a full, beautiful life; that includes activities, work, family, and a whole lot of the unexpected. Having Hartman lean in and remind me that “fatigue induced by activities that we usually consider fun or relaxing. Any activity, be it work or play, can drain us physically or mentally if left unchecked or if pursued in an unbalanced manner.” She focuses on Sabbath as a “time of rest and renewal” and recognizes that it looks different for everyone or even in different seasons of our lives. What I love is that I found a kindred spirit in Hartman and her love for the table as a place of community and rest is a familiar one. She acknowledges that we can be swept up in life and get so distracted that we can lose sight of all that makes life worth living.

I could fill the blog with quotes from Hartman, but instead I’ll share a few questions she poses to the reader, in one of her opening chapters. I hope you’ll be inspired to answer them, examine where you are, and maybe pick up the book for inspiration.

  • What do I truly need today?
  • What would really refresh me?
  • What activities have been draining me lately?
  • What can wait until Monday?

“Sabbath commands you to pause and ask yourself what rest means to you. The ability to recognize what you truly need is the first gift of Sabbath.”

(Sidenote: this is one I am happy to have in digital format, and I received it through the BookLook Bloggers program in exchange for my honest review. The format works for me with this book because I can easily take it chapter by chapter, revisit, stop and start, and still thoroughly enjoy. It also means I have her recipes handy, on my phone, as a sort of mobile cookbook. That being said it would make a wonderful gift as a physical copy or to have on my cookbook shelf as a go-to recipe book.)

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