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

Tiny Beautiful ThingsTiny Beautiful Things:
Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar
Cheryl Strayed
Vintage Books, July 2012
ISBN 978-0-307-94933-2
Trade Paperback

Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar by Cheryl Strayed is simply amazing.  The book is essentially a compilation of letters to, and responses from Dear Sugar.  I could tell you that Dear Sugar is an advice column, and technically, that would be true.  More accurately, though, Dear Sugar is to an advice column what a home-made, warm-from-the-oven, chocolate-chip cookie is to a vanilla wafer.

Cheryl Strayed, aka “Sugar”, is a fascinating, compassionate, outstanding person.  She doesn’t read the letters that are written to her.  She absorbs them.  She mulls them over.  She lets the questions stew in her mind.  Only then, does she write her heart out in a response.  This must be why her responses are awesome.

Ms. Strayed is a truly generous person, in that she shares so much of herself in her replies.  Her bravery amazes me.  Her willingness to bare her soul and expose raw wounds to absolute strangers is courageous, supportive and understanding, but most importantly, natural.  Only a handful of people are actually that honest and humble.  She has the unique ability to be tough, sympathetic and comforting.  I found that, whether or not I could identify with the letters to Sugar, I always garnered something from her responses.

A very dear friend gave me this book as a gift.  It is among the top 5 presents that I have ever received.  It has already become my travel companion.  It lives in my favorite tote.  Pages are dog-eared, passages highlighted.

My cousin suffered a stroke over the weekend.  I sent him a copy of this book to help him heal.  This is a book that I can, and will, give as a gift.  It is versatile.  It will be a fabulous happiness gift, or a gift to help someone cope, a graduation gift, or a gift to give someone hope.  I believe that anyone can take something away from Dear Sugar’s replies.

I felt good reading this.  I cried for some of the letter writers and I cried for Ms. Strayed.  I marveled at the courage and thoughtfulness that went into each letter and that was matched by each response.  I feel stronger, braver and “normal”.  I found something that had been lost:  confidence, in myself, and in others.

To give you a flavour, without a spoiler, here is a passage from correspondence that does not appear in the book:  You swam across a wide and wild sea and you made it all the way to the other side. That it feels different here on this shore than you thought it would does not negate the enormity of the distance you traversed and the strength it took you to do it.”

Reviewed by jv poore, January 2013.