Book Review: “In Full Bloom” by Claire Swinarski

I recently had the great pleasure to read Claire Swinarski’s newest book, “In Full Bloom.” It couldn’t have arrived at a more appropriate time, as our family is enduring a cold, currently snowless winter, the fallout from the Covid crisis and a controversial election, and a period of infertility. To adopt Claire’s metaphor, there doesn’t seem to be anything blooming around us- in our backyard, in our country, or in our family. You might feel the same way right now, particularly about the current state of our country. I would highly suggest that you pick up a copy of “In Full Bloom” for some advice about how to thrive in this odd season of all our lives.

I have to admit, to a certain extent, the blooming metaphor was lost on me. I’m not a gardener. I kill pretty much any plant I touch. Even my little office cactus died. Our backyard is just grass and dirt, and as much as I would love to plant flowers (I dream of one day creating an outdoor shrine for Mary), I don’t even know where to begin. But I did take biology in grammar and high school, so I get the general process of plant growth. And Claire did a wonderful job of applying the plant metaphor to our spiritual lives in a way that even the worst plant-killer can understand.

The main idea is that we are meant to bloom where we are planted, even if we’re not wild about our current location. In some cases, God does want us to change our situation- we might need to move, or drop a bad relationship, or quit a job that is spiritually draining. But most of the time, God wants us to bloom right where we are. There are plenty of times in our lives when God wants us to remain just where we are. We might not love our situation, but it’s where God wants us to be. It’s where we need to be. It’s where He knows we will blossom, if we’re willing to cooperate with His grace. And the best part? Unlike many books that talk about blossoming where God plants us, Claire’s book provides wonderful, practical examples of just how to do that at the end of each chapter.

Claire’s practical suggestions are perfect for all types of women- single, married, with kids, you name it. Her words are easily applied regardless of where you might currently find yourself. She addresses college students, workers, wives, and mothers. She uses her own experiences in each of those roles to relate to all types of readers. Her combination of personal stories and advice draws readers in and also encourages them to apply her words and suggestions to their own lives. Even if you currently feel like you’re blooming where you’ve been planted, there’s always room for more growth, and Claire’s suggestions at the end of each chapter can certainly help you with that.

I cannot emphasize enough the simple beauty to be found within the pages of Claire Swinarkski’s In Full Bloom. She writes for the modern women, in a way that we can easily understand. Her words bring her thoughts to life, and her style of writing makes you feel as though she is sitting beside you, chatting and opening her heart to you. Whatever spiritual season you might find yourself in, her words are for you. Whether you feel like you’re being strangled by the weeds of your life or you’re basking in the warm glow of the sun, her words are for you. We are all meant to bloom, regardless of where we are, and if you’re unsure how to do that here and how, this is the book for you.

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