& Review: Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed

Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on love and life from Dear Sugar by Cheryl Strayed. Non-Fiction. Publisher: Vintage

Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on love and life from Dear Sugar by Cheryl Strayed.
Non-Fiction. Publisher: Vintage

“Forgiveness doesn’t just sit there like a pretty boy in a bar. Forgiveness is the old fat guy you have to haul up the hill.”

The Book Itself: There’s not much of a cover here. It’s a pretty tangerine orange color, and the title. Simple, excessively plain, no-nonsense. Kind of like the way we’d like advice to be 😉

My Review: Life can be hard: your lover cheats on you; you lose a family member; you can’t pay the bills—and it can be great: you’ve had the hottest sex of your life; you get that plum job; you muster the courage to write your novel. Sugar—the once-anonymous online columnist at The Rumpus, now revealed as Cheryl Strayed, author of the bestselling memoir Wild—is the person thousands turn to for advice.
Tiny Beautiful Things brings the best of Dear Sugar in one place and includes never-before-published columns and a new introduction by Steve Almond.  Rich with humor, insight, compassion—and absolute honesty—this book is a balm for everything life throws our way.

The bookstore I work at has sold over 300 copies of Wild in 2014 alone. And the bulk of that number was in the last month, when the movie came out. It seemed like every 30-something woman was buying it as a gift for a friend or thought the movie was beautiful and wanted to check out the book for herself. Now, I haven’t been able to get into Wild, honestly. I’m 100 pages in and it’s not grabbing me. I might actually see the movie version before I complete the book (a travesty, I know).

But I picked up Tiny, Beautiful Things on a whim, and I thought it, in a word: lovely.

That is not to say that I agreed with all the advice given. I didn’t. There were actually a couple responses that Sugar/Strayed wrote that I downright disagreed with, and thought, “Wow, that’s not sane/realistic/right at all!” But overall, Strayed’s kindness and support of these total strangers writing her with some serious stuff is touching, and the whole thing is incredibly human.

The pulled quotes on the inside cover of the paperback copy are awesome. I pulled the above tidbit off of that ^^ But I liked the titles best. The ones that really reached out to me and touched me were “Write Like A Motherfucker,” (and no, not just for the fun profanity), and “Your Invisible Inner Terrible Someone.”

The former is, perhaps obviously, about writing, and what it means to have succeeded, and how feelings of being a “failed” writer (not having a bestselling novel by the time you’re thirty, when you always thought that you would) can seriously mess with your personal mojo. This one is a good reminder about how humility can really serve a person well, in any professional and passionate sense. Thought you were going to be a bestselling author at thirty? Well then you’d best be writing like your fingers were on fire! Strayed likes to coddle her readers in her pet names: “hon,” “my dear,” “sweetpea,” even “glowbug,” in this one.  She does so even while dishing out sometimes brutal world truths. It’s both a little awesome and a little cheeky. Of course, the best line in this one is the last: “So write, Elissa…Not like a girl. Not like a boy. Write like a motherfucker.”

“Your Invisible Inner Terrible Someone” hit home very personally on several levels. The completely irrational fear of the future, despite everything being absolutely rosy in your present. And this one epitomizes what I loved most about reading this book essentially about a woman suggesting how people handle their baggage: Strayed comes across as truly warm, giving, and…for lack of a better term, motherly. She holds your hand and right off the bat says, “Everything is going to be okay, no matter what, I promise, and now here’s what I think is really going on. Here’s what I think you might do about it.” It’s difficult to describe how loving her responses come across. It’s just nice to hear such a soothing voice sometimes.

I think I might just come back to these pieces when I need a little pick me up. It’s nice to know or even just hear from someone who will always have your back. Even if that person is doing it in print, and isn’t even talking directly to you.

My Grade: B


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