“Tiny Beautiful Things” by Cheryl Strayed

“There are some things you can’t understand yet.  Your life will be a great and continuous unfolding.  It’s good you’ve worked hard to resolve childhood issues while in your twenties, but understand that what you resolve will need to be resolved again.  And again.  You will come to know things that can only be known with the wisdom of age and the grace of years.  Most of those things will have to do with forgiveness.”

Before she was the author of the best-selling memoir Wild, Cheryl Strayed was “Sugar”, the anonymous advice columnist for the online magazine, The Rumpus.  Tiny Beautiful Things is the collection of her columns – letters from people baring their pain and souls.  Strayed’s responses are raw as well as sweet and poignant.

Cheryl Strayed has no formal psychology training and plenty of adverse experiences to leave her more than a little damaged, but her responses are insightful; cutting to the quick of the clarity the letter writer so desperately seeks.  Directness, tapered with boundless compassion, is Sugar’s gift, with most writers affectionately referred to as “Sweet Pea”.   Strayed’s responses are like having the best of best friends listen to you and reassure you that everything will be ok, because you are more than ok.  Naturally you believe every word she says, since she is the brightest, most articulate friend you have.  You leave the conversation buoyed by her advice and brimming with new found confidence.

More though, than a collection of advice columns, Tiny Beautiful Things is really a memoir.  Strayed reveals as much, if not more, of herself through this small book of collected letters as she does in Wild.  Sometimes painfully uncomfortable, I wanted to put the genie back in the bottle and tell her to stop revealing such ugly, personal stuff.  It was, however, all this ugly, personal stuff that soldered strong connections to some of the sorry souls desperately seeking Sugar’s advice and comfort.

This was a difficult post to write.  This book is not for everyone and yet I loved it so much that I bought several copies for friends.  It reminded me a little of a slightly tamer Augusten Burroughs.  I thought Anna Holmes, in her New York Times book review, captured Strayed’s spirit.   Check out her review or even better, stop by the Bookshop and check it out for yourself.

~ Donna