Book review: Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed

I’m undone by the beauty and wisdom of Cheryl Strayed’s Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar. Exquisite, funny, shocking, real and oh, so generous. I picked it up on impulse from Powell’s and read it in a matter of hours.

I met Cheryl years ago at a literary salon in a Portland living room. Her first book, the novel, Torch, was newly released, and I remember being struck by her burning talent and humanity.

Since then she has gone onto great literary acclaim, and her memoir, Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, is still topping the charts (Oprah picked it to kick off her book club 2.0).

Tiny Beautiful Things is an incredible read for parents, but not because it’s about parenthood (although Cheryl’s motherhood informs several of her responses to her readers). It’s about being human…the best human one can be under the circumstances.

Parenthood will challenge you to the core, especially if you carry painful history. Parenthood has a way of shining a beam on our deepest insecurities and fears. Parenting will show you who you are, even when that doesn’t line up with what you project to the world (or yourself).

As Sugar, Cheryl uses her own complicated childhood, upbringing and experiences to illustrate the life lessons she’s learned. But she doesn’t tell stories from a pedestal. With the utmost tenderness she sits with her readers, their hands in hers, as she “goes there” with them, willing to explore her own painful memories if helps them feel understood.

Sugar’s advice is electric, wise, funny, profane, searing, and honest without condescending. Her writing is top-notch. Her storytelling is powerful, but it never overpowers her purpose, which is to help an individual in pain. Witnessing that intimate exchange elevates Tiny Beautiful Things beyond “self-help” into a category I can’t properly describe. Perhaps because I’ve never seen it before.

If you need inspiration, entertainment, perspective, or a good kick in the ass, read this book. I feel better, and even a little braver, for having done so.

At Amazon: Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar, by Cheryl Strayed