Tiny Beautiful Things

Monday, February 9, 2015

Tiny Beautiful Things 
Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar 
by Cheryl Strayed  

I was a bit wary of this book when I first heard about it. It’s a collection of advice columns about life and love, and I couldn’t think of why I needed to read someone else's advice about someone else's problems. But as I began to dig in to each letter I quickly realized that you don't read the book for Sugar’s advice. You read it because she manages to share intimate parts of her own life in a way that makes you feel connected to the entire human race in all its beautiful fallible glory.  

She is so honest and vulnerable in these columns. She uses examples from your own life to advise people on each of their issues. You don't have to be able to relate to her experience for these letters to touch you. They reach beyond the boundaries of what small sliver of the world each of us have seen. They get at the center of things, the piece of our hearts that drives us and scares us. She writes about losing love, being lonely, being brave, and being willing to do the right thing in the right moment even if it terrifies you. Often the thing she talks about our painful to read. There are people all over this world experiencing heartbreak in different ways and she never shies away from tough issues. 

I was completely blown away by her ability to expose herself to these strangers. By letting herself be so vulnerable even her harshest advice has a tender feel. I admired her ability to speak truth to people. Even if the answer isn’t what they might want to hear, she still told it like she saw it. 

Honestly, I wish I’d read this book before reading Wild. I was turned off at first in that book because it felt like she was using her mother’s death as an excuse for her bad behavior. It won me over in the end, but I think if I’d gotten to this one first I would have understood her better. She’s very honest and open about her failings and struggles and that’s incredibly rare. 

BOTTOM LINE: Loved it. You don’t have to agree with all or any of her advice, just treat the whole book as a unique memoir. Strayed personal history is woven into every single reply to a letter. She bares her soul to her readers to help them deal with their own issues and the result is beautiful.  

A Few Notes:
There are a couple times where she reads more than one letter in a row and then answers all of them at one time. The first time she did this I thought I missed something because I was listening, not reading a hard copy. I was worried that the chapter had skipped ahead of something, so just a heads up. 

In her review, Trish mentioned that you shouldn't try to plow through them quickly and I agree. I listened to an audio version and tried to just listen to a few at a time. I do think they have a bigger impact that way and they are pretty intense.


Ana S. said...

I love this book so much <3

Lisa said...

Wild has been on my reading list which is unrealistically long - but I think I would look for this one first.

Kailana said...

I have been seeing so much about this author and her books, but I have never read her... I actually used to have Wild somewhere but think I may have purged it. I will have to see about reading her at some point!

JoAnn said...

I was hesitant about this one, but will go listen to the audio sample now.

Andi said...

I dip into this book when I need a good cry. It's so cathartic, and her writing is so great. Not like advice columns, to me, as much as mini essays. Love it!

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Ana - Me too :)

Lisa - I definitely recommend starting here.

Kailana - I wish I'd started with this one.

JoAnn - I was too and I don't think it's for everyone, but give it a try!

Andi - Yes, they feel like a collection of essays more than anything else.

Belle Wong said...

This sounds like a really beautiful read. I just put a hold on it at the library.

Amy said...

I love this book. Obviously, not every situation applies to or speaks to me, but the over-arching wisdom is so comforting...Adore yourself, forgive yourself, and ring that iron bell like it's dinner time.

Jillian said...

Strayed is beginning to be someone I completely respect. Sure, at times, I do not get her and I can not relate to her, but I sort of get where her thoughts are coming from. She writes pretty beautifully too, I think. I might check this out sometime.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Belle - I hope you like it! It's outside my reading comfort zone, but I was really impressed.

Amy - Forgive youself, absolutely. But she's also very tough about certain things and I love that. When she thinks someone needs to make a change on their end she says it flat out.

Jillian - She really does have such a beautiful writing style! I struggled with Wild at first because it felt a bit whiny, but I came around. This one hooked me from the beginning. She's just so honest!

Brona said...

I've been reading this over the summer too and finally posted my review this week :-)

I love how you focused on the memoir-ish aspects to her writing, because, of course, it is a big part of the appeal.

I saw her speak at the Sydney Writer's Festival two years ago...& she talks as she writes - very open, frank & often startling.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Brona - I would love to hear her speak! She strikes me as being a lot less guarded than most authors are in person.