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.