‘The Grace of Enough’: How one family’s decision to downsize led to better living
Reviewed by Bonnie Engstrom
“The Grace of Enough” is, in part, the true story of a family of five who sold most of their belongings, moved halfway across the country, and lived in a 650-square-foot apartment with a compost, non-flushing toilet. That story alone would be enough for a great book, but for author Haley Stewart it’s just the beginning.
In her first book from Ave Maria Press, popular author and podcaster Haley Stewart creates a combination that is part memoir, part friendly theological treatise, and part “how-to” manual about “pursuing less and living more in a throwaway culture.”
Stewart is a bookish millennial with a hipster husband, three sweet kids, and a brand new baby. She is also a convert to Catholicism, co-author of the liturgical living cookbooks “Feast!” and “More Feasts!,” and — full disclosure — a good friend of mine. Her massive Stella Maris tattoo and unicorn pink hair may set her apart from many of the Catholics in the pews, but in reading “The Grace of Enough” it becomes clear that the way Stewart has embraced Catholic teaching on the care of the earth, the value of people, and the importance of social justice is what makes her quirky in the eyes of the culture.
Throughout the book Stewart shares interesting stories with compelling lessons. The retelling of her and her husband’s decision to downsize so they could have more time together as a family — even though that meant less money and things — made me feel inspired and a bit terrified. Her description of why, even as a Protestant, she gave up using birth control is sincere and convicting. The story of meeting her neighbors after a car accident in her front yard is heartwarming. And each recounting of the fellowship that happened over meals motivated me to extend invitations to my neighbors and friends.
Stewart does a solid job of bridging the gaps for those of us who are clueless about how to begin living more simply and intentionally.
Stewart’s book is rooted in Catholic teaching, and her lived experience reaffirms what the Church has taught through the centuries: family matters and should be invested in, people are more important than things, we must be good stewards and honor the dignity of workers and creation, and life is beautiful and should be well lived, which does not necessarily mean a full schedule.
All these subjects in “The Grace of Enough” are dear to Stewart’s heart and she does a solid job of bridging the gaps for those of us who are clueless about how to begin living more simply and intentionally. Relating to people is one of Haley’s strengths and she never judges, only encourages through personal stories and hard-hitting quotes from St. John Paul II, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, Pope Francis, Dorothy Day, and Molly Weasley.
A GOOD BOOK CLUB PICK
Along with her friendly tone and the richness of her personal stories, I also appreciated how user friendly the book is. Each chapter ends with a variety of suggestions for how her readers can implement the change suggested by popes, saints, and Stewart herself. There are tips that can apply to a variety of people in a variety of stages in life, covering topics such as dinner parties, Facebook, ethical purchases, downsizing, gardening, and being intentional with your children and friends. She is never pushy and leaves plenty of room for each of her readers to find our own ways for implementing change, which I really appreciated.
Anyone looking for a good Book Club pick will be glad to know that discussion questions are in back of “The Grace of Enough,” as is a nice-sized list of resources for anyone wanting to read further on the topics.
“The Grace of Enough: Pursuing Less and Living More in a Throwaway Culture” by Haley Stewart is published by Ave Maria Press and available for sale.
Bonnie Engstrom is a writer, speaker, homemaker, and blogger from St. Patrick Parish, Washington, and one of The Catholic Post’s new team of book reviewers. Learn more about Bonnie at her blog, “A Knotted Life.”