BOOK REVIEW: Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed

After years of acting as “Dear Sugar” on Rumpus.net, Cheryl Strayed has gathered the best of her sage advice into one fine book: “Tiny, Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar.”

But, it is unfair to name these stories just “advice columns.” They are riveting vignettes, delving precariously into the deep underbelly of both the letter-writers’ and the advice-giver’s emotional worlds. As we read, we spelunk utterly into their stories:  a man of faith dealing with addiction, a woman grieving over her miscarriage, a trans man whose estranged family has asked him for forgiveness, a woman working to understand her sexual desires, an older man desperately hoping to overcome fear to find love.

These are the memories that we tuck into the cracks in the walls and the feelings that we pin beneath the floorboards. All these stories compiled in one place creates an emotional atmosphere where we can pretend that everybody is always this vulnerable and open–and that because they are, they are met with compassion and radical empathy.

Strayed is unequivocally wise, startlingly brave, and has emotional intelligence that we can learn from. She is generous and kind to her letter-writers, offering up her own memories of humiliation, abuse and grief to better guide and sympathize with her readers. She helps to shed some light on the parts of ourselves we’d wish would go away, and she asks us to always grow in the direction of good. She tells you: “Let yourself be gutted. Let it open you. Start here.” 

Read this book, but be prepared to find your own emotional pits hidden among the pages. Let yourself fall in. You’ll be in good company.

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