Title: Tiny Beautiful Things
Author: Cheryl Strayed
Since your book is comprised of collection of some of your “best” replies from your advice column from The Rumpus, I thought it only appropriate to review your book in letter form. We often know that advice columnists are not professional therapists, psychologists, or psychiatrists. I doubt someone who had to evaluate someone’s mental health for a living would enjoy doing it for free to complete strangers without knowing a true back medical history on the advice seeker. What really draws readers to advice columns is the writers’ ability to draw us in and tell us a story. Sugar (aka. Strayed), you’ve done just that. Honestly, I picked up the book without knowing anything about you, your former work (memoir, The Wild), or The Rumpus. I’m sure, like others who read advice columns, I read each letter and then tried to guess what “advice” you would impart on each person.
Unlike “Dear Abbey” you weren’t trying to change social norms or have any other visible public agenda. Actually, you didn’t give any sort of straightforward advice, except the occasional recommendation that the person seek out professional help. Instead, you delved into your own experiences to give perspective through anecdotes, which were not only entertaining but had LOADS of shock value. For a while I thought you were writing JUST to shock the audience, but I could see and understand why you wrote what you wrote for each person.
I was able to read several letters at a time, enjoying the way you told your stories, until I reached one that struck a cord with my own personal life. Once I read those, I had to stop and put it down. I even had to skip a couple and come back to them later, because I knew I wasn’t ready to read those – “The Truth That Lives There.” However, I truly think that in spite of the essay, anecdotal feel of the “advice” given there were many truths found throughout the book. Here are just a few of my favorites…
“Go, even though you love him. Go, even though he’s kind and faithful and dear to you. Go, even though he’s your best friend and you’re his. Go, even though you can’t imagine your life without him. Go, even though he adores you and your leaving will devastate him…Go, even though you’re sure no one will ever love you as well as he does…Go, even though you don’t know exactly why you can’t stay. Go, because you want to. Because wanting to leave is enough.”
“The best thing you can do with your life is tackle the mother fucking shit out of it.”
“Forgiveness doesn’t sit there like a pretty boy at a bar. Forgiveness is the old fat guy you have to haul up a hill.”
“You will learn a lot about yourself if you stretch in the direction of goodness, of bigness, of kindness, of forgiveness, of emotional bravery. Be a warrior for love.”
I enjoyed this book and would recommend it to others who enjoy well written essays or would just like to read a different perspective. This book made me take a second look about my life. I don’t believe EVERY person who reads this book will make some huge epiphany about their own life. But I do guarantee there will be at least one or two stories that will make you take a closer look at your life or make you remember a moment in your past that you hadn’t thought of in a long time.
Thanks Sugar. It was a roller coaster ride.
Now to next book of the Quarter-Life Crisis Book Challenge!!!…”The Defining Decade: Why your twenties matter-and how to make the most of them now” by Meg Jay, PhD