I guess I’m a little late to the party. Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts was released almost eighteen months ago and since then has been a consistent bestseller. If anecdotal evidence can be trusted, its appeal has been almost entirely to women. Not surprisingly, I’ve received many questions about the book and most of them have come from women—women who have been given the book or who have been told to read it. So at long last I had the book sent to my Kindle and I gave it a read.
The book’s appeal seems to come on at least two levels. In the first place, it features a uniquely poetic form of writing. Voskamp has a style all her own; it appeals to some and is exasperating to others. Just to give you a taste, here is an excerpt from the first page:
A glowing sun-orb fills an August sky the day this story begins, the day I am born, the day I begin to live.
And I fill my mother’s tearing ring of fire with my body emerging, virgin lungs searing with air of this earth and I enter the world like every person born enters the world: with clenched fists.
From the diameter of her fullness, I empty her out—and she bleeds. Vernix-creased and squalling, I am held to the light.
Voskamp likes to use language in unexpected ways, moving around the order of words, blurring the lines between prose and poetry so that a gift isn’t “tied with ribbon,” but is “ribbon bound.” Sentence fragments are acceptable, rules malleable. There is clearly a kind of appeal to it so that those who don’t hate it, love it.
The second level of the book’s appeal involves the topic so that what she writes about resounds with many of her readers.
Voskamp’s story begins with the twin themes of suffering and ingratitude. She recounts the heartbreaking story of the death of her sister and shows how this, along with other great sorrows and disappointments, drove gratitude far away. One Thousand Gifts is a biographical account of first seeing her need for gratitude and then learning to express it not just in spite of life’s trials, but even through them. She refers to this as eucharisteo, a Greek word for thanksgiving.