Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life From Dear Sugar by Cheryl Strayed

Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar by Cheryl Strayed
Published July 2012 by Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Source: my ebook copy checked out from my local library

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.

Four and a half years ago, Trish (of Love, Laughter, and A Touch of Insanity) reviewed this book, a book I’d seen around but only marginally had an interest in reading. Trish wrote:
“Strayed takes these incredibly difficult questions and answers them with such honesty and clarity and gorgeously spun words that often my heart ached reading her responses. She talks about her own life and her own challenges (making this book as much a memoir as an advice piece) and she asks her readers to take a hard and deep look within. Sometimes we don’t want to see the answer that is staring us directly in the face, but Strayed squares us by the shoulders and locks into us that impossible gaze of honesty.”
I knew I had to read this one as soon as I read Trish’s review. I was also convinced that I wanted to own the book so I have spent the past four and a half years trying to find an inexpensive copy. I finally gave up on holding out for that. It appears that people hold on to this book once they’ve read it. Having read it, finally, I know why.
“Love is the feeling we have for those we care deeply about and hold in high regard. It can be light as the hug we give a friend or heavy as the sacrifices we make for our children. It can be romantic, platonic, familial, fleeting, everlasting, conditional, unconditional, imbued with sorrow, stoked by sex, sullied by abuse, amplified by kindness, twisted by betrayal, deepened by time, darkened by difficulty, leavened by generosity, nourished by humor, and “loaded with promises and commitments” that we may or may not want to keep. The best thing you can do with your life is to tackle the motherf*%@ing sh@~ out of love.”
Right up until that last sentence, you would have thought this was a book I could put into anyone’s hands. But Strayed uses the f-word liberally, including when referencing sex and she is brutally honest. This is not a book for everyone. But, for the readers of the Dear Sugar column who knew what to expect, and for those of us not especially bothered by those things, Strayed gives thoughtful, caring advice that, despite her pseudonym, is not sugar-coated in any way. She empathizes with those who are hurting, gives step-by-step advice for those who need them, and opens herself up in order to help others. Those who need comfort will find it in Sugar’s responses. But Strayed also flat out asks one letter writer if she knows what boundaries are and tells another that she is arrogant. Those looking for an easy answer will not find one.

If you decide to pick up this book, take your time with it. It is not a book to be raced through, but to be absorbed and considered. Thanks, Trish, for convincing me to pick this one up!

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