Saturday, December 29, 2012

Review: 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess

I was surprised when I picked up Jen Hatmaker's 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess from the hold shelf at the library. Surprised, that is, that I requested it in the first place. If you check out the other reviews I've done you'll see that the idea certainly fits within my usual genre of interest. The basic idea is that in order to simplify her life after being called rich by a poor young hurricane victim who is staying in her  home, Hatmaker decided to simplify seven areas of her life. She resolves to spend one month on each of the areas--food, clothes, spending, media, possessions, waste and stress--boiling it down to the number seven by only eating seven foods, wear seven articles of clothing, spend money in seven places, etc.

My first problem with the book, and the reason I was surprised that I picked it up in the first place, is that religion is very front and center throughout the book. Since I'm not religious, this is a turnoff. I can't say this was hidden, however, if I'd clicked on "read more" in the Amazon description, or even read a bit about the author, who is active in the running of some new-agey church in Austin and is on the Christian author/speaker circuit. In other words, I should known, but I missed that little snippet.

Intrigued by the book's premise, I decided to read it anyway. And if you're a heathen like me who is turned off by a bunch of religious talk, let me warn you, it's sprinkled pretty liberally throughout the book as Hatmaker views her foray into simplicity as a way to get closer to God. There were several paragraphs and pages I skimmed right over cause, no offense to the believers out there, that stuff resonates with me about as much as tales of Santy Claus. Once you get past the first chapter or two though it does die down a bit.

The second problem, however, invades the entire book, and that's the core concept itself. Sure, it's intriguing to read about someone choosing to simplify their life by sticking to a severe limit, in this case, eating the same seven foods, wearing the same seven items of clothing (stick that in your craw you less-than-100-thing- wannabes). Could you do that? Could I? But more importantly, why bother? Because in the end it just feels like a giant gimmick, ahem, another giant gimmick, for a book that doesn't make a whole lot of sense in reality. Let's face it, the simplicity genre does love a good gimmick, and a lot of the books I've read employ them. Though, in retrospect those are the books I tend to enjoy least with the exclusion of the Moneyless Man, but the whole gimmick for a book thing isn't really working for me anymore. What does sticking to seven foods really teach someone that sticking to a budget limit, or a healthy-eating plan, etc, would not? In fact the latter ideas seem more edifying to me, but to each their own. And wearing only seven items of clothing? Well that was just silly really, especially where she shuns wearing a coat during a freak Texas cold snap because it's not on the list, and instead complains frequently about it. Just go get your freaking coat already!

It's not all bad of course. Hatmaker is a good and humorous writer. She manages to make even telling the mundane details of the book entertaining, and unlike some simplicity books I've read, the quality of her writing only enhances the tale. While any way of spreading the simplicity message is a good thing to me if it resonates with readers, this one just didn't resonate with me. Sadly, I can't say Hatmaker's book has inspired me to make any additional changes toward simplicity and isn't one I'd recommend.


  1. I am SOOOO with you on the gimmicks - it's really a turn off for me. Not sure why, but I guess I feel like it trivializes the entire concept of voluntary simplicity. Sorta like "Hey, let's take a movement that's meant to be about connecting with our own humanity, and turn it into a form over substance game, just like all the other crap in society that we're supposedly rejecting!" Anyhow, thanks for the warning on this one! :-)

  2. Seven items of clothing? Hmm so if you would be counting undergarments that is one outfit. So is one supposed to wash that everyday or just wear dirty clothes for the month? How is that simplifying ones life? I was reading some of the minamillism blogs but was turned off by the fact that they are all selling ebooks on the subject.

    1. She didn't count undergarments, so that's two outfits or so. She also lives in a warm climate so generally layering wasn't needed. And, if I recall she wore things a few times before washing (which I'm okay with, I really see no need to wash pants and shirts with every wearing if you didn't get it dirty/sweaty). But even so there was a lot of washing and some wearing of wet laundry. Simple doesn't always mean easy but, yeah, I really didn't get it either.

  3. I thought the book was awesome. Convicting. We are me-focused people and this book was a great example of how to actively seek more God and less me. Hatmaker's writing was humorous and she seems sincere. GREAT book.


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