Not long after I began hearing constant talk about Cheryl Strayed's Wild, which I still need to read, I heard about Tiny Beautiful Things; a sampling from her time as an advice columnist known as Dear Sugar. While hiking isn't really my thing, the epic journey of Wild and endless stream of recommendations was enough to make me curious. But why would I want to read a hodge podge of advice columns that I could skim through, or more likely skip over, online? Over the past year, several friends and trusted reviewers have given Tiny Beautiful Things tons of praise that I couldn't ignore. I'll admit that I can fold to a decent amount of peer pressure - in this case, I'm so happy I did.
Tiny Beautiful Things does it all. Strayed covers every topic imaginable, from frivolous high school love triangles to dealing with miscarriages and boyfriends wearing panties. But the magic of the book isn't just in the varied topics, it's in the way Sugar infuses her answers with a perfect blend of sense, understanding, vulgarity (those curse words are important), and bits of herself. While she is willing to call people out on the exact things they need to hear, she does it to be helpful instead of turning on the know-it-all tone that can make many advice columns unbearable.
[in response to a struggling young writer] "The most fascinating thing to me about your letter is that buried beneath all the anxiety and sorrow and fear and self-loathing, there's arrogance at its core. It presumes you should be successful at twenty-six, when really it takes most writers so much longer to get there. . . . You're up too high and down too low. Neither is the place where we get any work done. We get the work done on the ground level. And the kindest thing I can do for you is to tell you to get your ass on the floor."
I found myself struggling to hold back tears during most of Sugar's responses. Sometimes she shared heartbreaking stories from her own past that were difficult to read, but more often I found myself choked up over the beauty in her words. There is so much more to Tiny Beautiful Things than just advice, there is conversation - this book feels like a good friend.