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Book Review: Bright Shining: How Grace Changes Everything

Monday, 27 May 2024  | Andrea Do Santos

Bright Shining: How Grace Changes Everything

By Julia Baird

(Sydney: Harper Collins, 2023)


As Christians, the concept of ‘grace’ is very familiar to us. God’s unmerited favour is offered to us as the only requirement for our salvation, that we receive the work of Christ on the cross freely, accept that our sins are forgiven and embrace the relationship God seeks with us now that the price of our sins has been paid. It is a mystery that cannot easily be summarised but that is a witness to our benevolent, loving Creator’s character. The sacrifice of Christ is at the centre of our faith. Grace is a gift that allows us to be free of our past and opens our futures into possibilities only God could imagine for us. It’s pretty cool.

That said, the concept of ‘grace’ is not something that is often explored by the secular world. Why would it? The idea of getting something for nothing goes against the grain of human nature. Working hard for outcomes is what the world is built on. Julia Baird’s ‘Bright Shining’ invites us to look at the world around us a little deeper. You might be surprised by what she uncovers.

By exploring aspects of our global society and things closer to Aussie culture, Baird shows us that the threads that hold us together are often people willing to give of themselves when, technically, no obligation to give beyond their job description is required. Nurses who held the hands of those dying of Covid when family and friends were not allowed to be by their sides. Senior citizens catching taxis every fortnight to donate plasma as they have done since their younger years. Acts by total strangers that keep the world alight with hope, even when the darkness of war, greed and corruption insists our planet is an inhospitable place.

What spoke most deeply to me was Baird’s own gratitude for the doctors and nurses who tend to her as she battles cancer, the friends and family who nurture her as she recovers from surgery, her children who accompany her to Western Australia for well-deserved respite, and her journey into the depths of the ocean where whales can be seen dancing and onto country that seeks healing between our Indigenous peoples and the rest of us. Her writing is full of inspiring stories that remind us that the world is full of grace, unmerited kindness and acts of love.

But it is her personal sharing that helped open my own eyes to what surrounds me every day. I am also a single parent, battling chronic illness and an author. At the time I read Baird’s book, I was in the middle of a three-month flare of my condition. A good friend had suggested her book to me. Not only did Bright Shining reanimate my reality, but it also reminded me of how much my God loves me. A God whose grace not only saved me, but who made sure to get Baird’s book to me when I needed reminding. I am not alone in my suffering. There are other single parents out there, suffering from chronic illness, writing up their ideas, hopes and stories to try to give something back to the world that blesses us in its own way with love, kindness and hope. Aptly titled Bright Shining, Baird’s book shows us how grace lights our daily lives as much as the Sun starts our days and the Moon signifies our nights. It is a delight to read and healing for our dried-up souls.


Andrea Do Santos is an author and artist. She has worked in Mental Health, using her life experience and art workshops to encourage those who are struggling with mental illness. Her self-published novel, Eve's Return, is currently available on Her website is

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