Last week, I had the opportunity to chat with Cheryl Strayed during a Random House of Canada Twitter Chat and reading her answers to the numerous amounts of questions that flowed in made me realize that not only is she a fantastic memoir writer (see my review of Wild), but she answers questions in brilliant and elegant fashion. She doesn’t beat around the bush, she doesn’t “fake it”, she’s real. That’s why when a copy of her new novel, Tiny Beautiful Things landed on my desk, I knew that I was going to love it, because it’s a collection of some of her best advice columns from her column Dear Sugar. For those of you that might not know Dear Sugar is a regular series that is featured in The Rumpus. Recently, it was revealed that Cheryl Strayed was the voice of Sugar and if you’ve never checked out her advice columns before, I highly suggest picking up this collection to be introduced to what she’s all about and why she’s so popular in the online world.
First things first, I very rarely highlight my novels (unless it’s a text-book) but I found myself with the book in one hand and a highlighter in the other the whole time I read it and the reason why is because she doesn’t just answer questions or comment with a solution, but writes back in a conversational format. Her guidance and advice includes a glimpse into her personal life and she openly shares her past with readers in hopes that they will be able to find solace and hope in her words and past experiences. I know I sure did while reading, hence, the highlighter.
The subtitles of this collection is Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar, but it was so much more than just columns about love and life. There were columns that dealt with the loss of a child, suicide, homosexuality and much, much more. At a time when things get rough, it is reassuring to know that her advice is not just a healing tool for one person, but to all her readers. It was so good that I ended up reading two of her letters to my friend and she was also blown away by how direct, yet powerful Cheryl’s response could be. To give you a peak about what I mean, here are some of my favorite quotes from the collection,
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 or keep. The best thing you can possibly do with your life is to tackle the shit out of love.
Nobody will protect you from your suffering. You can’t cry it away or eat it away or starve it away or walk it away or punch it away or even therapy it away. It’s just there, and you have to survive it. You have to endure it. You have to live through it and love it and move on and be better for it and run as far as you can in the direction of your best and happiest dreams across the bridge that was built by your own desire to heal.
This is the kind of book that will effect you on a personal level in one way or another. It’s rich with insightful and endearing words that are meant to pick you up and meant to provide you with guidance. This collection of work has made me love Cheryl Strayed a little more (I don’t know how that’s possible, but I do) because she’s not willing to sugar coat (hehe) anything. Her words are powerful and I can imagine that I’ll come back to this book many times in the future in search of an answer to a question. I’ll leave you with my favorite quote from Tiny Beautiful Things.
The most terrible and beautiful and interesting things happen in a life. For some of you, those things have already happened. Whatever happens to you belongs to you. Make it yours. Feed it to yourself even if it feels impossible to swallow. Let it nurture you, because it will.