Friday, March 31, 2017

A Five Minute Friday Book Review: NEVER UNFRIENDED



 On most Fridays on this blog, I participate in the Five Minute Friday blog linkup with Kate Motaung. Today I'm combining my post (based on this week's prompt, DEFINE) with a book review.











Never Unfriended: The Secret to Finding 
and Keeping Lasting Friendships
by Lisa-Jo Baker
(to be released April 4, 2017)

A couple of months ago I applied to be on the launch team for Lisa-Jo Baker's book Never Unfriended: The Secret to Finding and Keeping Lasting Friendships (to be released next week). I actually haven't read much of Baker's other work (such as her first book Surprised by Motherhood or her writings on the (in)courage site), but the book title and theme intrigued me. When I was accepted to the book launch team -- which turns out to be more like a book launch MOB; there are a lot of us! -- and received an Advance Reader Copy, I was excited. But I also had this moment of "Whoa, what if I actually end up not liking the book? I can't write a bad review if I'm on the launch team!" I imagined myself deleting all subsequent emails related to the book ... AND quietly withdrawing from the launch team's Facebook group ... AND possibly the entire Internet ... AND possibly changing my name and moving to a remote wi-fi-free location somewhere, all the while simultaneously hoping no one would notice AND wishing they would ...

Of course, none of that happened because I have thoroughly enjoyed Never Unfriended. And I don't have to twist myself (or this post) in knots to make the Five Minute Friday prompt, DEFINE, fit either -- because defining is a huge part of this book. In the introduction Baker says,

"While we might have defined
friendship our whole lives by what others
do to us, in the end it’s what we do for
others that will define us as friends or not."

At the heart of Never Unfriended is the call to BE a friend: by letting our greatest Friend, Jesus, define our worth and allowing His faithful love to shape the way we pursue friendships with other women.

In Part 1, "What are We Afraid Of?", Baker looks at some of the fears we as women have about friendship. Maybe we've been hurt by past relationships and are reluctant to trust and risk again; maybe we're afraid of being excluded by those we most want to belong to; maybe we fear giving up our own possibly shaky sense of inclusion by drawing in other women who feel left out. This section is great because it addresses head-on the lies women often believe about their own worth and encourages us to place our trust in God's truth: "that we were always planned and wanted and included from before the beginning of time."

Part 2, "What Can't We Do About It?", addresses many of our expectations around friendship and how we need to acknowledge our limitations as friends. This part was helpful. In my experience I've struggled a lot with "I should have set better boundaries. I should have insisted others clarify their boundaries. Why was I so willing to just take what was given and not push back?" This section of the book helped me explore those questions but not just stay stuck there. Baker says, "In order to be agents of peace, of long-suffering, of long walks with a God who doesn't turn His back on relationship, we need to be healthy ourselves." (She draws quite heavily here on the work of Drs. Henry Cloud and John Townsend, authors of Boundaries and of many other books I've read and benefited from.)


Part 3, the longest section, is "What Can We Do About It?" I loved this part because it is so heartfelt and practical. Here Baker discusses concrete ways we can be better friends: Going first. Choosing not to be "fine." Giving the benefit of the doubt. Listening well ... and so on. We all receive suggestions and advice better when the person giving it has been there -- and Baker gives many moving and often hilarious examples from her own experience of how these principles have strengthened her relationships and helped her be a better friend to other women. As she puts it,

"The secret to finding and keeping
lasting friendships: become women who want 
to see the women around us flourish."

I think pretty much any woman who wants to have friends -- and more importantly, be a friend -- will find something in this section that speaks directly to her experience and gives her encouragement to take positive steps in her own relationships.

The two short chapters in Part 4, "Where Do We Start?", urge us to practice being a friend to ourselves as well as to someone else -- today. I agree with Baker that we as women often have a very hard time making friends with ourselves: we focus on our shortcomings and make long lists of should's. But she encourages us to remember that (as Romans 8 emphasizes) nothing can separate us from the love -- and friendship -- of God.

This book is an "easy read" in some ways. Baker's style is warm, intimate, and engaging. I enjoyed her humour and vulnerability; she draws you close, just like a friend having a chat over coffee. But there is also a great deal of substance here: the book touches on some very real areas of hurt and woundedness in our personal lives and relationships, and explores many concrete, practical aspects of friendship-building and maintenance. 

I would unreservedly recommend Never Unfriended to any woman who wants to be a better friend to the other women in her life and who wants her relationships to be defined by the example of Jesus. 

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If you're interested in ordering the book, 


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Disclaimers:

- As stated above, I received a free Advance Reader Copy of this book as a member of the launch team.

- It took me longer than five minutes to write this post!




18 comments:

  1. Thanks Jeannie - I was also intrigued by the title and theme of the book and I appreciate your review - will have to pick this one up!

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    1. You will LOVE IT, Amy! It would be wonderful as a group study, too -- nudge, nudge, hint, hint!

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  2. I've been seeing this book around - I'll need to check it out! :)

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    1. I would really encourage you to do that, Annie: there's so much good stuff in it. Thanks for coming by to read and leave a comment.

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  3. This looks like a great book, Jeannie - and it would be especially valuable to men, who characteristically have a hard time developing and keeping 'deep' friendships.

    Thank you for highlighting this wonderful resource!

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    1. Thanks for your comment, Andrew. While the book focuses on the friendships of women, I do think there would be valuable insights for men as well.

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  4. Thanks for sharing this review, Jeannie. I've heard a bit about this book already and it sounds really good, and such an important topic. I definitely hope to read it at some point. And I share your feelings about being on a launch team. I've done it a few times now and it is such a relief when you find you can honestly recommend the book!

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    1. Thanks for reading and commenting, Lesley. I hope if you do check the book out, you enjoy it. It IS an important topic.

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  5. Hi Jeannie! Thanks for sharing this review. I liked the part where you said that she emphasizes our friendship with God as our identity giving relationship. I'll have to check it out!

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    1. I actually thought of that very thing when I read your post, Amy. Thanks for stopping by!

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  6. I've added this book to my to read list. Launch teams are so fun! I'm in the 55 spot this week!

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    1. Thanks for stopping by, Tara. I hope you like the book, if you do check it out.

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  7. I like reading book reviews, even if I decide not to read the book. I've been fooled by titles before so it's good to see some of the meat of this book. Thanks Jeannie.

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    1. You're welcome, Debby--I know what you mean about wanting to know a bit more about a book ahead of time. I've been fooled too! I would definitely recommend this one, though. Thanks for stopping by to read and comment.

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  8. Jeannie, very creative post! You have sold me on the book (although it now has a place among a whole list for me). Seeing Jesus as my friend has always been a bit troubling for me. It seems to strip Jesus of his "otherness" or divinity. However, I am embracing this: "by letting our greatest Friend, Jesus, define our worth and allowing His faithful love to shape the way we pursue friendships with other women." How fun to be part of a launch team!

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    1. Hi Stephanie: yes, it was quite a neat experience. That is so interesting what you say about seeing Jesus as our friend. I think that does need to be balanced with the recognition that he is God and that he calls us into a transforming relationship as opposed to just wanting to get together with us and binge watch TV shows, ha ha. Anyway, the book is good and I would recommend it. Thanks for reading and commenting!

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  9. So glad to read your review here, Jeannie. I'm so intrigued by this book because friendship is a favorite subject of mine. I think I could really benefit. Love this idea: "At the heart of Never Unfriended is the call to BE a friend: by letting our greatest Friend, Jesus, define our worth and allowing His faithful love to shape the way we pursue friendships with other women."

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    1. I would encourage you to check out the book, Betsy. I really enjoyed it and I think I will probably go back and re-read it to take in even more of it. Very insightful and real.

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