Reach Out, Gather In: 40 Days To Opening Your Heart And Home, by Karen Ehman
[Note: This book was provided free of charge by Bethany Books in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.]
This book was a very pleasant one, and it made me think of hospitable people that I happen to know. The book’s aim, and it is an open and obvious one, is to encourage people to be more hospitable both inside and outside the home. This goal is served by a mixed approach that blends together several different genre conventions to make for an appealing and deeply personal work that hit the right spot for me even if I am by no means the obvious intended reading audience of this work. I would say that this book is aimed at housewives in general, but those who appreciate being welcoming people will find much to enjoy here even if the book is not aimed at everyone. As far as its genres goes, this book blends the structure of the 40-day devotional with elements from a personal cookbook and also aspects of self-help books and the focus on cleaning and organizing one’s life as a prelude to welcoming other people into one’s life and into one’s home to enjoy their company and be gracious hosts to others. By and large this blend of materials was an appealing one personally and likely would be to many others as well.
This book is about 250 pages or so long and it is divided into eight parts that deal with various aspects of hospitality, those eight parts being five days apiece. After an introduction that makes this book plain a 2020 work on social distancing, the author begins with a look at why we should be welcoming, with a discussion of leftovers, gifts, and getting rid of clutter. This is followed by a discussion of being welcoming to family first but not family only, showing others one’s care and sharing some no-longer-secret family recipes. This is followed by a discussion of the quest we find for finding people to love, including our neighbors, and the need to open our hearts and ears to those who might not be close friends. After this comes a look at one’s niche as far as being hospitable is concerned, as well as a discussion on how we can meet the needs of those around us. This is followed by encouragement to refresh the souls of others, being hospitable outside the home, and looking at whose eyes we have. After this comes a final and continual assignment from the author, acknowledgements, resources, a spiritual resume, memory verses, and notes.
I may be a bit biased of a reader, but for me the part of this book I enjoyed the most were the awesome recipes that the author shared. While not all of them were appealing, a great many of them were tasty foods like sweet cornbread muffins and chocolate-chip pumpkin bread and sweet potato pie with streusel topping and Italian suffed shells and seven layer salad and other dishes that sounded like they would be very wonderful to try. My standards for cookbooks are modest, in that any cookbook that features foods I would be willing to try is good enough for me to like. This book is not even strictly a cookbook and it meets my own standards for such a genre on top of its otherwise excellent materials. The fact that the book is so helpful on a practical level of encouraging the reader in creating food that helps make people feel more welcome somewhere gives it a different angle to the majority of books about spiritual subjects. This is a work that not only encourages the reader and exhorts the reader to tidy up their houses and open the doors to others, but also gives very practical advice concerning the sorts of foods that can help others to feel welcome and that demonstrate one as a hospitable host. If I have not always been terribly hospitable myself it is always good to be encouraged to be more so.