What I Learned - The United States of Us by Kate Sundara

This is one of the most lyrically gorgeous books I have read in a long, long time!
Timely for me too, having just spent almost a month with some of the amazing First Nations people from Canada...I want to read and learn absolutely everything I can about the Native way of life and traditions!  This was an unexpected bonus when reading this book!


What I Learned

The first of many beautifully stunning written descriptions in this book.  Kate's descriptive prose are some of the best I have ever read and I just couldn't get enough of them.

...sometimes it the only thing that keeps you going!

Another beautiful description...just perfection.

This is one of the greatest gifts.  The ability to see the magic that is everywhere.  Tricky, at times.  Especially when life gets hard and complicated and sad and stressful.  But the magic is always there.  Waiting.  Hoping you notice.

Surround yourself with the people who make you sparkle.  It's important.  Really important.  Actively search out the people with the stardust.  They are YOUR people!

Someone once told me that paradise is only paradise if you have someone to share it with, and I've never forgotten that.  Sharing these experiences and adventures makes them all the more special.  My gorgeous daughter and I are lucky enough to have had our share of adventures. and my biggest hope for her is that she keeps getting out there and seeing everything the world has to offer and always has a tribe of people who are special and can share the magic with her.

The double edged sword that is social media.  I think some people forget that people will often only put out there what they think people want to see and what they think their life should be like, and for people who are naturally dissatisfied with everything in their own life that can be tough to see.  But I also think that quite often the people with the most fabulous looking social media lives are often the ones that are struggling the most in the real world.  Maybe even overcompensating.  So use social media in the best way possible.  Stay globally connected.  Have a look at what the people you love who are scattered around the world are up to, but it's really important to remember that this is never the whole story.  This is the 90 minute movie adaptation of that epic novel you love.  

...for the better or for the worse!  So grab today.  Tell the special people they are special.  Leave them in no doubt as to how you feel about them.  And if your days at the moment are a little darker, remember that that one day can change everything.  The sun will come out any second.  Just hold on for one day more.  You never know what will come.

This made me giggle so much.  My daughter actually said a version of this to me the other day when we were having yet another "discussion" about her bedroom!

This kind of princess absolutely does this.  On a daily basis in fact!  The alternative can be far too terrifying.  That doesn't mean it's a good thing.  Inside my castle is safe.  I know everyone and everything in there...it's risky to let another person in.  Sets yourself up for hurt and heartache.  I'm not saying it's a good thing, not for one second, I'm just saying I recognise and accept my faults!

...especially when we maybe feel like we don't deserve the perfection.  Are utterly undeserving in fact.  That it's too good to be true.  There must be a catch.  Something you are not seeing.  Waiting for the other shoe to drop.  A horrible thing to feel but so much more common than you would think.

Always tell them.  Every single last opportunity you get.  Make it a conscious decision.  Go out of your way to make sure.  Life is far too short for the alternative.

The perfect description of that kind of worry that seizes every bit of you and makes food impossible.

This is exactly what my daughters best and most genuine smile is like.  And it's beautiful.  A sight to behold!  After reading this I don't think I will ever look at a puddle in the sun without thinking about my girl smiling.

I LOVE the Catherine Wheel sort of people!  Bright.  Sparky.  Unique.  An absolute joy.  Quietly being seen with no idea of how beautiful they really are.

IT's a fine line between being hopeful and putting your life on hold.  So try really hard not to.  Keep moving forward.  The genuine people. the people who matter, the people who are going to matter and be important and be there for you, they will keep up with you as you move forward, no matter what.  And on the flip side make sure you make the effort to keep up with the people who matter to you so that they know.  It's always worth it.

Stop and look around you.  Do you know your neighbours story, your colleagues, even your grandparents?  Stories are the best bit about people.  You really have no idea how deep their river runs, and you can know someone your whole life and still not know even a fraction of their stories.  I love people's stories.  I love learning the stories of the places around me.  History is important. Makes us who we are.  Can define a person and a place.  How many stories are you missing around you right now just because you haven't taken the time to stop and look.

I love this concept.  This is something I want to read so much more about.  I was talking with a Canadian recently who was telling me about his life, his battles, his highs and lows and the good and bad wolves sitting on each of his shoulders, and in his heart.  Such a genuinely beautiful story.  One I won't ever forget.

How gorgeous is this feather idea.  Everything we do, every barb, is connected, is attached to that main path, that true calling, your life's direction.  I think that is easy to forget sometimes.  And the idea of the Eagle as the communicator between realms.  I read a story ones about a belief that a robin that visits you often is someone who loved you popping back to check in, to say hello, to remind you you were loved.  I smile every singe time I see a robin.  There was one a few months ago who followed me around a garden for a couple of hours demanding my attention.  

I know this time.  It's so peaceful and magical.  Everything is ahead of you, is new, almost like the reset button has been hit.  There are infinite possibilities for the day ahead.  This is the time to take a breath, take stock and decide the person you want to be that day.

Never stop looking.  I've found too that quite often the story you need the most at any given moment in time has a habit of finding you.  Whether it's the right book, a song lyric, a tweet, a blogpost, an overheard conversation...you just never know.  Keep listening.  Keep reading.  Keep watching.  The story you need the most could be right in front of you.

For me this means being around water.  Whether it's the sea, a river, a waterfall, a loch, it doesn't really matter.  I just know there is some mystical magical quality that leaves me feeling just, well, better, calmer, more peaceful.  Like everything will be ok.  Nothing can't be fixed.  Life will be good.

...so hang on.  Just hang on.  Just a little bit longer.  This isn't forever.  Isn't permanent.  Isn't the end of your story.  This might be your darkest dark before your lightest light.  Hang on.  Breathe.  Wait.  Just wait.  I promise this will be better.  And this right now, well, that will just be your story.  Yours to tell later. 

And really, at the end of the day, that's all that matters, all that there is, all that's important.

Isn't this the truth.  We can't all be super heroes all of the time.  And even super heroes usually have a side-kick to share their troubles with, or an assistant at home to pick up the slack while they are off saving the world.  So that the one important the task, the saving the world, that is all they need to focus on. But real life doesn't quite work out like that does it.  Especially in the age we live in now were people expect everything instantly.  We have 24 hour shops, mobile phones that mean we should be contactable 24/7.  It's ok, and not a sign of weakness, to slow down, to get off the carousel, to just stop.  We need to stop.  Remember the days when shops weren't open on a Sunday and we didn't have social media or mobile phones or email.  The world kept turning.  Things still got done.  It all still happened.  

Such a fine. fine line.  And so easily blurred.  Especially if you haven't had the greatest of experiences in the past.  And no longer trust your intuition.

I hope this is true.  I know it's hard.  And more times than not you have to actively look for the light.  But it's always there.  There's always something.  Even if it's tiny.  And far away.  I want this to be true.

Well ain't that the truth!   But you know what - I choose to believe that this says way more about them than it does about me.  And I don't ever want to stop crossing oceans for people and being that person.  It's part of what makes me me really.

Quite possibly one of the greatest put downs of all time!

This here, this is what hope looks like.  Hope for all the pages of your story yet to come.  And it feels amazing!


This is the kind of home we all crave, really, isn't it.  And it's the best kind of home.  Because it goes with us.  Wherever we are.

The mist might be cold, and feel all consuming.  But it is temporary.  It will lift.  Or you will climb above it.  Or you will sail through and out of the other side.  And chances are that someone standing on the shore somewhere is looking at that mist and thinking how beautiful and magical it looks.

This made me literally stop and catch my breath.  It is so heart achingly sad.  That moment you feel like childhood is gone and you are all grown up.  The magic looses a bit of it's sparkle and life is just all to real.

This is one of my greatest wishes for my wee girl.  I hope she grabs every adventure that comes her way, but always secure in the knowledge that she is not alone and always has somewhere to come "home" too.

This reminds me of the Roald Dahl quote from The Twits.  It's something about kindness shining out your face and making you beautiful, and horribleness making you ugly.  And it's true.  So true.

It's the only way to be really.  Regardless of what is falling apart around your ears you can only control your response.  So try to breath, and do what you can, and let the rest go.

I am going to write this on a post it note and stick it to my washing machine!

Never forget to remember this.  It's one of the most important things.  And it's just as important to make sure your actions at the very least match up to, if not exceed, your words.  Never make a promise you can't keep.  What you do counts.  Every second of every day.

This is so true.  I guess we all just have to figure out the level of insanity we are prepared to put up with!

You, your story, your thoughts, your beliefs, who you are, will always be you no matter where you go or who you are with.  So don't ever pretend.  No one can be as you as you and you are awesome.  And if there's things going on with you, things you need to stop and deal with, do it, because you are important,  you are worthy, you matter.  Don't just keep running.  Or pretending.  Or putting on a brave face.  Because you are depriving the world of the real you, and you are amazing!

This is utter genius!  What a great trick!

This goes back to what I said earlier about the story finding you when you need it the most.  Just make sure you are looking and open to the things the universe thinks you need to know!

...or if we think we know ourselves and deem ourselves unworthy.  It's hard to let others in when you don't feel you are good enough. But I'll let you into a little secret...you, you are great, you are everything you need to be, and you are absolutely worth it.  So let your walls down, take a chance.  You just don't know where it will take you!

We all forget this don't we.  The hero only becomes the hero by overcoming their darkest hour, by being as low as they can be and rising back up, for overcoming the odds when everything is stacked against them and there is seemingly no way out.  And none of us want to see them fail.  We are all rooting for them.  And I think we definitely forget that when we are doing it tough.  We forget people want to see us come out of the other side and do well.

This is so raw, so honest.  She totally see's him.  Really see's everything about him.. Every little thing.  And it's beautiful.  How amazing would it be to be seen like that?

Isn't that all we can really ask for?  To be loved for who we are, no questions asked!

*******SPOILER ALERT*******
The moment you let go.  Quite possibly the toughest moment of them all.  And hard to know when to do it.  But sometimes it's the only thing for it.  Let go, move on, start again.  Give yourself the chance to be as happy as you can be.  Give someone else the chance to love you.

I think this is so powerful.  "but - "  It's ok to be brave and strong and still let people in to help you.  It's ok to ask for that help.  It's ok to just stop for a bit and let someone else be brave and strong.  Or let someone see you are vulnerable and scared as well as brave and strong.  You are doing great.

Following your dreams might not always take you where you thought you would end up, but I bet they will still take you somewhere amazing, and it will be one heck of a journey!

Try so hard not to let cynicism created by other people's action taint your view of the world.  Always try to remember that it says a lot more about them than you.  Be the best you can be.  And don't go out there expecting the worst of people.  Be hopeful, always.

...and her story is amazing!

Maybe it's just about finding that person who makes you stronger, who helps raise you up and helps you believe in yourself.  Have the courage to believe you deserve it!

*******SPOILER ALERT*******
Feeling lost is one of the worst feelings.  I love this passage, everything about it.  I love the idea of the wolf.  This takes courage, real guts and grit.  It takes everything you have to put yourself out there and not be afraid of being hurt anymore.

Just keep going.  It's all there is.  It's all you have.  And I promise you it will be worth it!

One of the most beautiful acknowledgements ever!

My Goodreads Review:

The United States of Us: A Love StoryThe United States of Us: A Love Story by Kate Sundara
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a beautiful gem of a book that has left me feeling calm, content, happy and definitely wanting more of the beautiful prose from this incredible author, and unexpectedly timely given I have just finished working in Scotland for 8 weeks with some Canadian First Nations people, and listening to there stories so I was absolutely meant to read this book.

I can't say enough how beautifully written and lyrical his book is. It's just gorgeous from the first page to the last, and has a really authentic ring to it all the way through. I fell head over heals in love with all of these characters, and am a little sad that it's all over because I will genuinely miss them all.

This is one of those rare books that leaves you feeling like a better person for reading it, and makes me crave more reading materials on the Navaho people and their long history, stories, and challenges they faced at the hands of the US Government.

This book will leave you feeling both utterly contented and wanting more all at the same time.

A must read!

Find Kate Sundara online at:

The United States of Us was published by Ipso Books (now Agora Books)  find them at:

I adored every last page of this book and have passed it on to my teenager daughter who I know will love it too.

Thank you so much for checking out this review - if you enjoyed it please have a look at my complete list of What I Learned reviews.

Happy Reading!


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