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Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar

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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.
Tiny Beautiful Things brings the best of Dear Sugar in one place and includes never-before-published columns and a new introduction by Steve Almond.  Rich with humor, insight, compassion - and absolute honesty - this book is a balm for everything life throws our way.

354 pages, ebook

First published July 10, 2012

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About the author

Cheryl Strayed is the author of four books: Tiny Beautiful Things, Torch, Brave Enough, and the #1 New York Times bestseller, Wild. She's also the author of the popular Dear Sugar Letters, currently on Substack and the host of two hit podcasts--Sugar Calling and Dear Sugars. You can find links to her events and answers to FAQ on her web site: http://www.cherylstrayed.com/

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Profile Image for Julie.
Author 6 books1,865 followers
February 24, 2014
Dear Sugar,

I didn’t want to read your book. I don’t read advice columns as a matter of principle. Needy people, foolish people frustrate me. To read an entire book of advice column Q&A seemed about as necessary as professional football, with the same end result for this reader as for those players: heads bashing into unmovable objects.

But my book club selected it. Duty calls.

A bunch of shit happened in the three days I took to read your book. Like, universe is speaking to me shit.

The First Day (Parts I & II):
On this achingly bright morning I was securing a hank of hair in a little clip when I noticed gray hairs. Now, my first gray hair appeared in 1999 when we bought our first house and I’ve had a few more here and there over the years, but they’ve always been curiosities, anomalies. This morning, however, my hair was streaked in silvery white strands. I’m crazy-nearsighted and in the months I’ve become a full-time writer, I have little reason to examine my face in the mirror; I think I last wore mascara in October. So maybe that gray has been there for a long time and it took the rays of sunshine through the skylight at just the right time to expose my new middle-aged reality.

I checked the next morning at the same time, with the same intense sun pouring through the skylight. Yep. Still there. But the hair isn’t gray. The strands are silvery white against my natural auburn. They are beautiful. I can’t fathom trying to cover them up with chemicals.

I won’t complain that people often assume I’m several years younger than I am, but along with that assumption comes the presumption that I haven’t lived, haven’t experienced, don’t quite know or get or “Just wait until you’re my age …” This beautiful hair says “Yeah, baby. I’m forty-fucking-five. I’ve lived it. I get it. I’m older than you know.”

I almost stopped reading after How Do You Get Unstuck—only the second Dear Sugar— about the woman suffering after her miscarriage and you sharing the horror stories of the young women you’d encountered as a youth advocate. It was all too raw for me. It hit too close to home. But I kept going and a few dozen pages later, you rewarded me with Write Like a Motherfucker, a statement I printed in Sharpie on a Post-It and pinned to my bulletin board.

Dudes in the Woods gave me a different way to think about friendship and I realized I needed to share a piece of knowledge about someone with a mutual friend—that it wasn’t gossip, but a search for the best way to help. Turns out that mutual friend was suffering, too, and now we’re able to move forward together. The Woman Hanging on the End of the Line slapped me in the face with the force of my own bitterness and rage at a few individuals who wronged and betrayed my husband and me and the price I’ve paid for that rage. I’m not sure I’m ready to let it go just yet, but now I accept that I have a choice.

The Second Day (Part III and IV):
I went to coffee with a new writer friend (three lovely words, don’t you think?). We shared our writing journeys. I explained I’d wanted to be a writer my entire life, but I quit writing at ten, when my parents split, and didn’t resume until I was 41, after I lost my first pregnancy. And finally found the courage to begin my novel days after losing my second, when I was 43. Those are the facts.

You succeeded in making me cry with Beauty and the Beast and laugh out loud with The Known Unknowns: “I’d rather be sodomized by a plastic lawn flamingo than vote for a Republican…” Can I use that? I’ll credit you, of course! But it was A Glorious Something Else I’ll carry with me: “…boundaries have nothing to do with whether you love someone or not. They are not judgments, punishments, or betrayals. They are a purely peaceable thing: the basic principles you identify for yourself that define the behaviors that you will tolerate from others, as well the as the responses you will have to those behaviors.”

Day Three (Part V):
I finished your book this morning. Of course you would end with a letter from a reader who wondered what your now-forty-something self would tell your twenty-something self that made me cry. I closed your book and cried loud, cathartic sobs. My twenty-something self had already found an amazing guy and was deep into a rewarding career, so it’s not like I could relate to your encounters with the Ecstasy-dropping gay couple or your heroin addiction or failed first marriage. But there are other pains, other regrets, other mistakes, betrayalsabandonmentslosseshates for which I cried. It was a collective of tears for the stories I’d read and the empathy I’d felt.

Moments later I learned a friend’s marriage is ending, with a bitter custody battle underway. Reading her words, I became my ten-year-old self, caught between two bitter, angry, vengeful people who had a choice. And didn’t choose me. Didn’t choose what was best for me. They chose hate and recrimination instead of cooperation and love. I wrote to my friend with that little girl’s soul, hoping she would make the right choice for her young son. And then I went for a run.

I ran in the same aching light that three days before had revealed the undeniable proof: my body is fading from the solid brilliance of youth to silvery, tenuous old age. I ran straight into the epiphany that I stopped writing when the child I’d been was abandoned and her world fell apart and didn’t begin again until I accepted the loss of my own children and let go the hope of being a mother. I knew these as facts—I had relayed them to my new friend two days before—but I hadn’t felt the facts as emotions until that moment, in the 16° wind chill and determined sunlight. I had to stop running. I was laughing and crying so hard, I couldn’t breathe.

Dear Sugar, I'm ETAing to let you know that one of my brothers called me a few days after I posted this review to my blog. He said he'd learned more about me from reading my review than he'd ever known. But isn't that why you published this collection? To learn about yourself? Good on you. I reckon it worked.


Going for Silver

Profile Image for Moira.
512 reviews25 followers
December 4, 2013
I wound up having slightly mixed feelings about this book. Other reviewers have already pointed out that Strayed spends far more time telling her own stories than offering any advice; the columns lose some of their punch without the comments; and, when gathered all in one place so they're read one after the other after the other, rather than spaced out over weeks or months, they tend to pall (the endearments like "sweet pea" especially start to grate). There's no question that Strayed is a real writer (a lot of the writing in this book is better than her much-touted memoir Wild) and her book made me cry at least five or six different times, and I have no doubt I'll be rereading it again. But it really is kind of more a mini-memoir with very short chapters inspired by other peoples' prompts. A lot of her stories are wonderfully told -- and certainly this is better than a lot of other literary-advice-type books out there, like Sane and This Is How, not to mention horror shows like The Purpose-Driven Life -- and Strayed herself says in the book that she doesn't so much offer concrete suggestions as alternate perspectives. Usually she takes the bare facts offered her and reframes them as a slightly different story, with lots of personal details and verbal pyrotechnics.

Sometimes this works brilliantly, as in "How You Get Unstuck" (AKA "You live on Planet My Baby Died") and "The Obliterated Place" (the man who couldn't bear to write a letter about how his twenty-two-year-old son had been killed by a drunk driver, so he sent in a list instead; Strayed responds with her own list). Sometimes it just seems flat, as in "Tiny Revolutions" (older woman worries about her "droopy" body) or "The Lusty Broad" (relationship from Planet Hell, not even going to try to summarize that one: "But once she quoted John Donne over my naughty bits after making love, I was done for" is how it starts off). It's easy to tell when Strayed's famous empathy actually fails her (she tends to snap at people who mention they went to "prestigious colleges" or had student loans), and her digressive, gathering-in, meandering storytelling works much better at length than in the shorter columns, which are uniformly disappointing. However, there's no denying there are real connections here: between Strayed and the letter-writers, the online columns and the commenters, and the people who will read this book. As the overenthusiastic intro by the man who started the Sugar column and handed it off to Strayed says, the Internet is usually "that shadow world to which people apply with a need to escape from their true selves....a cesspool of distraction." Strayed, in the persona of Sugar, offers a therapist-like acceptance. This may be as close to unconditional love as the internet ever gets. I like to imagine David Foster Wallace approving of the absolute earnestness and faith and wide-eyed hope which Strayed urges on her readers. It's more than refreshing; at her best, it's galvanizing.

One thing which did start to annoy me -- because it's repeated a number of times in the book -- is that when she does offer advice, some of it tends to, well, suck. A jealous person is advised to "breathe deeply" and just -- be less jealous! One really unfortunate shorter piece, "I Chose van Gogh," is simply rather awful: Strayed quotes a painter friend "who was raped three different times" who says "I could allow myself to be influenced by three men who screwed me against my will or I could allow myself to be influenced by van Gogh. I chose van Gogh." That's a bit breathtaking. It's very obvious to me at times that despite the real hardships she's been through -- the early death of her mother, her abusive father, divorce, poverty while trying to establish a writing career -- Strayed lacks the ability to understand, much less identify with, people who have been so drained and battered that their psychological resilience doesn't let them "choose" to be influenced by van Gogh or be less jealous or get up off the couch and start baling out their capsizing lives with their own two hands. Which is fine; this is, after all, a pretty lightweight advice book, despite Almond's really unjustified claim in his introduction that it will live as a great work of art. But in light of the extravagant claims being made about Strayed's ability to minister to human suffering and speak directly to the bright burning inner shining dear cherished &c &c light within us, it is disappointing for her to so constantly fall back on urging someone to just basically snap out of it and pull everything together. The "different perspective" which she offers winds up sounding too many times like a lengthier "Just Do It." To which someone depressed might retort, if I could Just Do It, I wouldn't be depressed. Or stuck, or angry, or jealous, or what have you.

It's a bit like an observation a friend of mine made about the "love your body at any size" approach: if you hate your body because of the nasty, sickening culture we're stuck in, that's bad, but then it's also on you if you don't love your body despite the nasty, sickening culture we're stuck in. It's no longer the culture's fault for propagating shittiness, but your own responsibility to transcend it. Too much emphasis is placed on the magical power of individual volition and sheer doggedness in a particularly American way. (Then again, I remember growing up reading syndicated Ann Landers columns in the daily newspaper -- which, as Joan Didion said in a slightly different context, nowadays is "so exotic as to be almost czarist" -- and basically Ann's advice, a lot of the time, was "Talk to your priest," which itself I found "almost czarist" in 1970s Northern California, raised in a church which had split off from a splinter group of Christian Science. So this is, perhaps, progress? -- But I digress.)

What's interesting to me about Strayed is that, like Wallace in his nonfiction (and even in his fiction -- think of Gately, or pieces like "The Depressed Person" or "Good Old Neon"), and the more historic work of poets like Anne Sexton or Adrienne Rich, she puts herself front and center: here she is, talking to you. If the Reformation's self-announced great work was to remove the barrier between Man and God, the work of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries is to make secular confession itself a sacred thing, a spiritual sacrament out of psychological unburdening. Strayed herself refers to this phenomenon: "....I'm a better person because I lost my mom young. When you say you experience my writing as sacred, what you are touching is the divine place within me that is my mother. Sugar is the temple I built in my obliterated place." Surely suffering does have the potential to create depth within us (although sometimes, if it goes on too long, suffering just turns someone flat and mean) and it's true that, as the song says, beautiful things can come from the dark, but this viewpoint uneasily reminds me of people who said -- proudly -- in AA meetings that they were grateful for being alcoholics, because it had shown them what was Truly Important and it had made them Better. I am very suspicious of this viewpoint at a very deep level. I don't actually wish to be other than who I am -- call it a failure of imagination, but how could I? it seems more like a pointless "If Grandma had balls, she would be Grandpa" conundrum -- but I'm not grateful I'm an alcoholic, no, any more than I'm grateful I'm bipolar or grateful I have shitty eyesight. Strayed here, like a lot of people, elides the difficulty in life itself with the ability to overcome it -- again, a particularly American viewpoint. Every failure is a challenge, every roadblock a challenge to leap higher, every moment when you're jealous or stuck a referendum on your character. It's not very far from that to the "we choose our burdens" Secret-ish philosophy I grew up with in that splinter group church: your life becomes a Challenging Opportunity for Growth. The greater the suffering, the deeper the psyche, the bigger the lesson.

I said I'm not grateful I'm an alcoholic, and it's true. I am, however, immensely grateful that I recovered, just as I imagine Strayed is grateful she overcame her early losses and trauma and built up a loving family and successful career. But I saw far too many people, just as devoted and stubborn and committed as I was, if not moreso, relapse, relapse again, relapse again and again, and never manage to climb out of the death spiral. I am related to a number of them. Some of them died young. Some of them lived on and on, suffering so much that death at a young age seemed enviable. My recovery didn't depend on willpower and stubbornness and the ability to Just Do It alone; if it had, the long-term recovery rate would be a lot higher than it is. Change, real change, has something of alchemy about it. It's hard to define and harder still to pass along, especially in an advice column on the net. Sometimes people strive and hope and work and never make it; sometimes people do almost nothing and reap enormous benefits. Or, as perhaps the oldest advice column I know of has it --

I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.
Profile Image for Ariel.
301 reviews64.1k followers
March 28, 2020
This was a gift from my friend Estée, so since I didn't pick this out for myself I really didn't know what to expect. I started flipping through it randomly and discovered that it was a series of advice columns! Dozens of letters starting with "Dear Sugar" and then telling a life problem, followed by Sugar's (Cheryl Strayed) response.

And you know, you might think you know what you're getting into with an advice column, but I promise you don't. The advice here, and the way that Sugar delivers them.. it will blow you out of the water. These stories, some of which you'll relate to and some of which you can't truly understand, will become so personal and meaningful. Sugar is phenomenal. Her writing is phenomenal, her advice is phenomenal, her honesty and generosity is phenomenal. She really made me want to live my truth, and I will always be thankful for it.

I have started a little personal project of writing letters to Sugar, letters I'll never send off, and it's been a really cool way to process things. I recommend it!
Profile Image for Thomas.
1,521 reviews9,016 followers
January 12, 2016
New 2016 goal: become the gay, Asian, male version of Cheryl Strayed.

I kid you not, I thought I would hate this book. Everything about it turned me off. "Tiny beautiful things"? "Advice on love and life"? "Dear Sugar"? I prepared myself for saccharine and shallow commentary with a hint of pop psychology. I thought things like, "why does our society value beauty so much anyway?" Perhaps I projected my own budding passion for creative nonfiction - and thus, my nascent insecurity - onto Tiny Beautiful Things.

I cried by page 28. Cheryl Strayed's compassion and her no-bullshit attitude punched me in the gut. After several essays I had to put the book down to breathe and collect myself. She writes about several difficult subjects - a gay son rejected by his parents, a woman who fears her sexual fetishes, a mother who has lost her child - with radical empathy and no frills. Her tone often comes across as blunt, and her message often boils down to if you want a good life, you have to create it. But somehow, in some miraculous and skilled construction of voice, her kindness and love for her addressees always shines through.

Also, for all fellow aspiring writers, take note of Strayed's style. She often writes these pieces like little bits of memoir, and she does so in a convincing way that connects to the question at hand without coming across as too self-indulgent. Before reading Tiny Beautiful Things I had no real intention of reading her memoir Wild. Now I cannot wait to get my hands on it.

Two overarching themes I detected from this amazing collection:
1) Talk to people. Even if the communication will be awkward, or vulnerable, or just straight-out uncomfortable, do it anyway. Ruminating endlessly on your own accomplishes little, and these scary conversations can often bring people closer.
2) If you want your life to get better, make it better. If that involves creating boundaries or leaving a loving relationship, do it. If that involves seeking therapy, do it. A masterful piece on this theme includes her column "Write Like a Motherfucker."

Recommended to anyone interested in becoming a better, more resilient and generous human. Also recommended to those who enjoy creative nonfiction and essays. I know I will come back to this book many times.
Profile Image for Elyse Walters.
4,010 reviews626 followers
April 11, 2023
New update ABOUT the SERIES.
By episode 8 …. Paul and I bolted. The anger became sooo exhausting—
I might finish the series eventually anyway - and I suspect the anger will cool …. but I think the show lost my husband.

The book ‘is’ better overall — but there are qualities about the series that are great too.

Just sayin. Lol

Update ….
Paul and I just watched the first episode - actually the pilot to Tiny Beautiful Things.

The cast is great > love Kathryn Hahn.

It’s good - off to a great start —- but for Paul, who had not read the book, found it a little confusing —
After I explained who DEAR SUGAR was (its immediately clear in the book - less so onscreen - but before the pilot ended - he was no longer confused.

Anyone else watching?

Cheryl was terrific to listen to.

I listened to the audiobook a little here and there.
Not all questions to “Dear Sugar” were particularly complicated- but some were - requiring some serious thinking into the problem solving process.
I enjoyed studying the way Cheryl work.
I liked her basic common sense. When presented with a question- it’s clear she examined it from all angles before giving her response.
She gave excellent advice to people.
I like how Cheryl loves people.
I liked her ‘own’ stories.

Cheryl just seems like that type of woman we all love: men, woman, young, or old.
What’s not to like her?

She’s wonderful - and keeps things real!
Profile Image for Melissa.
163 reviews4 followers
December 7, 2012
Have you ever sought advice from a girlfriend, only to have her go on for two hours about her own life and her problems, and you leave going, "Did that just happen? Maybe SHE'S the one who needs to seek advice."

That's how I felt reading this. Good God, this woman likes to talk about herself. The "Dear Sugar" column is not advice. It's memoir writing. She gives some cute little quippy note about how she's totally unqualified to give advice, and I don't disagree with that. Because in all these answers, hidden somewhere in the dredges of the five-page essays about her past and her problems, is a teeny nugget of something resembling advice. Some of her stories work, but some of them are just her telling her experience for the sake of telling experiences. Case in point: a column that simply says "WTF" which she answers by relaying the experience of her childhood molestation in shocking detail. Glad you got all that out of your system, Ms. Strayed, but does hearing about your grandfather and the awful, terrible thing he made you do *really* answer the reader's question?

That said, I appreciate Sugar's supportive style, as opposed to Dr. Laura's cold, angry judgement. And if you are looking for decent personal essays, this is your gal, as they're quite engaging and good. She has been through the trenches. But if you want someone to lend a listening ear without making it all about her, this is definitely not your gal.
Profile Image for Esil.
1,118 reviews1,363 followers
February 16, 2018
Thoughts on Tiny Beautiful Things:

-Thank goodness for Goodreads and some great reviews of this book by Goodreads friends because otherwise I would never have picked this one — not in a million year — no way!
-The audio is perfect.
-The audio is frustrating because I found myself wanting to underline so many sentences, but how do you underline an audiobook?
-Almost always, I felt like Sugar finds just the right words to give the advice I would to want give.
-Almost always, I felt like Sugar finds just the right words to give the advice I would want to receive — although maybe not in the immediate moment I was first receiving it.
-I love the the straight talk, the humour, the anecdotes, and the deep empathy.
-I loved that her advice is never facile or uppity.
-I love that she calls her husband Mr. Sugar.
-The use of language is fabulous, including the sprinkled judicious use of the odd swear word.
-While I don’t feel like I have any Dear Sugar issues in my life right now, she still managed to give me lots of food for thought about things in my own life or in the lives of friends and family.
-When is the next collection coming out?
-I guess I have to finally bite the bullet and read Wild.

Thanks again to Goodreads friends for steering me toward this one.
Profile Image for Jan Priddy.
753 reviews145 followers
July 28, 2017
"There is no cure except to live the hell out of our lives, to take it apart, to put it back together, to dig it all up, and then fill the hole. To help ourselves and one another to the best of our abilities. To believe everything entirely, while also calling bullshit for what it is." - Cheryl Strayed as Dear Sugar on The Rumpus.

TINY BEAUTIFUL THINGS: ADVICE ON LOVE AND LIFE FROM DEAR SUGAR by Cheryl Strayed (2012) contains letters and advice first published in The Rumpus. About the time her first novel came out, I was in a reading group with Strayed for about five minutes, so I’d read many of these columns online, but I also thought enough of them to want to sit down with Strayed’s book in my hands and read every one.

Advice columns have been around pretty much my whole life, starting with Dear Abby, and now and again I’ve argued with them—out loud and staring at the newspaper—because the advice seemed too above-it-all. But Strayed does something different by making both her responses and the anecdotes from her own life to support them intensely personal and philosophical. “Ten Angry Boys” had me in tears, and I wanted so badly to hug Strayed that it hurt. She obviously responded to only a fraction of the letters she received, but what she’s chosen resonates with my experience—as if she were my older and smarter, more experienced and wiser sister. I cried over and over, recognizing myself in the letters written and sometimes even in Strayed’s responses.

I bought six copies—wish I'd bought a dozen.

There is more sensible advice here than I’ve ever found in one place about how to get from age 20 to 40 with your integrity and heart both in good working order. Her personal stories knocked me over, but this isn’t “you think you have pain, let me tell you,” this is genuine truth and love and compassion which pretty much puts every advice column I've ever read out the back door, takes over the house and installs a band in the parlor to celebrate the action.

If I were a doctor I’d prescribe this for your health, to be reapplied generously every time you are confused, jealous, desperate, or think you don’t know what you’re doing. Because, sweet pea, you do know. [NOTE: there is considerable language and frank discussion of sexuality, but not a single mean word.]
Profile Image for Kelli.
851 reviews403 followers
February 12, 2018
I finished this in July 2017 and when I wrote my year in review, I realized that I had never properly reviewed it. Initially I was planning to write my review as a letter to Dear Sugar, but I couldn’t decide whether I should write an apology (I didn’t love Wild and I expected to loathe this), a confession, a love letter, or a thank you note. Six months later I’ve decided it doesn’t matter how I say this, so long as I do.
From the brilliant introduction to the very last word, this is unexpectedly powerful. It’s also in turns devastating, enlightening, moving, and brutally honest. The repetitive themes are so simple, yet so difficult: speak your truth (tell people how you feel rather than allowing situations to consume you) and if you aren’t truly, deeply happy in your relationship (if it is a whisper barely audible at the edge of your landscape or a fist in the face) you must leave. It’s very good advice, with lots of profanity and many “sweet peas” thrown in. Every letter won’t resonate with every reader, but I promise, you will hear something that hits you, stops you, and changes you.
I consistently recommend this one and I strongly encourage listening to the audio. An unexpected favorite that I couldn’t do justice to upon finishing, so I certainly can’t now. 5 stars

*One thing I should add is that the first letter is pretty shocking. It is not indicative of the collection as a whole.
Profile Image for Debbie.
456 reviews2,907 followers
June 11, 2018
Dear Sugar,

You need to help me here—your book made me a schizo mess! Sometimes I loved it, sometimes I hated it. Both sides very vocal. I'm so whacked, I can't even guarantee that my rating won't change.

I went into this thinking I would love you. Two trusted Goodreads friends thought I would and they’re hardly ever wrong. Besides, I’m a sucker for letters; they’re just so intimate. But I secretly and stubbornly had my doubts, because I completely hated your book of affirmations, Brave Enough. And Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail was in a pile waiting for me, but I wasn’t brave enough. If I don’t read it, I can’t hate it and be an alien among my gushy friends.

Okay. So the first few letters and responses, I’m sailing. Then I get to a part where you say that if a kid hears a parent put down another parent, it’s worse than if a parent berates the kid. I quote this to a friend because I think it’s so interesting. She jumps, “Is she a professional? Does this woman have a degree in psychology? I think it’s dangerous to give out advice like that.” In my head, I hear: Danger, danger! I stutter, a part of me completely agreeing with her. Who are you to say how parents are fucking up their kids? Won’t that comment make dueling parents feel just awful? Yeah, yeah, they should feel awful, but not THAT awful. Can they handle the guilt of what they are doing to their kids? Is what you say even true? You say, “Studies show.” That’s always iffy for me. What studies? Was it just one study with a few subjects, done at Podunk U? So now my reading is completely tainted. I start picking fights with a lot of your advice.

I tell another friend about the other friend’s comment. She says “Oh for god’s sake, do you really trust professionals? They don’t have all the answers! They don’t know what they’re doing half the time! Sugar’s advice is as good as any.” This is true! I think about how I freely ask for advice and give advice to friends. I’m not going to commit suicide or sue them if they give me bum steers. Giving advice is natural. Wanting advice is natural. Most people seek advice from a lot of people. So surely they aren’t going to follow every direction that you give, Sugar.

So now I’m all messed up. And I’m horrified that I am such jelly. Two friends with different ideas put the whammy on me. Why am I influenced so easily? Here I go off on a tangent, thinking about my waffle-ability. I’m now not only reading the book, I’m also beating myself up. I try to convince myself that I’m not jelly, I’m just open to all feedback. Sure.

I keep reading. I want to not like you all of the sudden. Or are you just making me not like you?

I’m going to talk about the two voices in my head. Please realize that they are constantly interrupting each other. Actually, they are both impatient bullies. So at no time do I plain love or hate the book. It’s all scrunchy and uncomfortable, like crossing your arms the wrong way. Oh I was so confused, anxious, and crazy!

One voice in my head is channeling the Complaint Board:

-Just who do you think you are? A shrink? God? Do you have delusions of grandeur? What if you steer someone wrong? Do you even worry about that?

-And I’m sorry, your answers sometimes seem formulaic: Go overboard with the sympathy and empathy first, then talk about something that happened to you, and then tell them what to do. 1, 2, 3, slam boom bam.

-Is your empathy sincere?

-You pepper your responses with stories about yourself. What’s that about? Are you trying to one-up them? “Oh gee. You think THAT’S bad, you should hear what happened to me.” Aren’t you being a bit ego-centric? People are waiting with bated breath for your advice, and they have to listen to your life story instead.

-Occasionally your advice really pissed me off. For example, you had no sympathy for the writer who was jealous of her writer friends’ successes. You were straight-out mean to her. If I had been the woman writing in to you, I would have felt awful when I read your response. Basically you reprimanded her, Sugar. Not cool.

-Another time I got pissed at you: You said you never tell anyone whether you think they should have a kid, and then you turn right around and tell the woman you think she should have a kid! Again, not cool, Sugar.

-You push forgiveness. Yeah, that’s a very good idea, but is it possible? And then if we can’t forgive, we have one more way to put ourselves down—we’ve failed at forgiveness.

-All of the letters sound like they’re written by the same person! What is with THAT? You said you edited them a little. That’s bull—you edited them A LOT! (I was an editor, so you can’t pull that shit on me.) I realize it made the letters more readable, but it took all of the personality out of the letter writers. I wanted different tones. Sentences that had attitude. And it even made me wonder whether you made up some of the letters—or all of them? (The Joy Jar voice is reprimanding this Complaint Board voice: Of course they’re real.) Actually, if they were fake letters, I wouldn’t have to worry about whether you were giving bad advice. Now I wish they weren’t real letters.

-And I’m sorry, but sometimes you sound fake.

-Your down-home sweet peas got on my nerves.

The other voice in my head is channeling the Joy Jar:

-Unbelievable! You have such interesting takes on people’s situations!

-It’s cool that you’re telling your own stories, too. All that huggy-huggy energy and empathy. You have a lot of self-awareness. And girl, you have been through some tough shit!

-You’re wise and clever, and you’re a really good writer.

-Sometimes I felt all in. Tickled to open my Kindle, dying to read the next letter, and dying to hear your response. Being tickled to return to a book is always a good clue that the book is pretty damn good.

-The questions people asked were endlessly interesting. (So even if you made them up, way to go for coming up with them!) The dilemmas the letter writers found themselves in were so familiar, so real. None were frivolous, none were unimportant.

-Some of your letters stand out. The one on grief, for example.

-You have a lot of psychological insight. And I like how you think that no problem is too small to analyze to death.

-I like how you encourage people to take the high road. I like how you talk about setting boundaries (though in real life I don’t see this happening much). I like how you take people out of their comfort zone, because often that’s the only hope for growth.

-I love the names that you came up with for the letter writers and I love your chapter titles. Some of my favorite titles: A Motorcycle with No One On It, There’s a Bundle on Your Head, Write Like a Motherfucker, Icky Thoughts Turn Me On, and Faux Friendship Footsie.

-I love that you know what a clusterfuck is.

-I love that you say fuck all the time.

-Your sweet peas are endearing and added a little levity.

So you see? I was in Turmoil City throughout much of your book. But luckily I relaxed in the last quarter; I had managed to tune out my skeptical friend’s voice and keep my Complaint Board voice on mute. In my relaxed state, I could soak up the goodness of the book.

And now that I’m outside and have my mojo back—what do I think of the book? I liked it. A lot. It made me think about my own psychology; it made me examine my motives and behaviors—a bonus because I thought I was going to be reading something light.

I thought the book was going to have a down-home, southern vibe. But no, it was a west coast shrink’s couch (a little airy -fairy-ish, a little affirmation-y) combined with a southern accent and a part-time trucker’s mouth.

My biggest test of whether a book is good is whether I was dying to get back to it. I definitely was. Pshew. Schizo Deb has calmed down, and I don’t feel like I need to change the rating. A strong 4 stars, sweet pea. I can call you sweet pea, can’t I?
April 12, 2019
Oh how I loved this book! It was exactly the right book at the right time. I love that Cheryl Strayed narrates the book herself. She's easy and enjoyable to listen to. And while a few of the letters/advice given didn't strike a chord, overall the book touched me deeply. The author had a troubled childhood and a hard life as a young adult so she is speaking out of hard-won knowledge and enormous empathy for the readers who sent in the questions for her Dear Sugar advice column.

Rather than say anymore I will end the review with a few quotes that I loved:

“Forgiveness doesn't sit there like a pretty boy in a bar. Forgiveness is the old fat guy you have to haul up a hill.”
(can I hear an Amen to that!?)

“Small things such as this have saved me: how much I love my mother—even after all these years. How powerfully I carry her within me. My grief is tremendous but my love is bigger. So is yours. You are not grieving your son’s death because his death was ugly and unfair. You’re grieving it because you loved him truly. The beauty in that is greater than the bitterness of his death.”

“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.”

“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.

“You will learn a lot about yourself if you stretch in the direction of goodness, of bigness, of kindness, of forgiveness, of emotional bravery. Be a warrior for love.”

This is a book I want in hard copy so I can mark it up and highlight like crazy.
Highly recommended, especially if you are going through a difficult season in your life.

Profile Image for Cheri.
1,802 reviews2,385 followers
January 26, 2018
”Everyday is so wonderful
Then suddenly
It's hard to breathe
Now and then I get insecure
From all the pain
I'm so ashamed

“No matter what we do
No matter what we say
We're the song inside the tune
Full of beautiful mistakes
And everywhere we go
The sun will always shine”

-- Beautiful – Christina Aguilera, lyrics by Linda Perry

I’ve wanted to read this since I saw the movie, “Wild,” advice from a woman who clearly went through a lot of her life reacting to the ugly stuff life had thrown at her, and when she’d exhausted all the feelings of rage, hurt, betrayal, all the ugliness pushed inside her by others, she came out the other side wiser, perhaps still imperfectly so, with a mending heart, and an empathetic heart filled with seemingly boundless love for others.

An ability to see inside a few scrambled words, letters written by others in pain, or lost in confusion, and to respond in a way that offers them wisdom and solace. The wisdom is probably not what you’d expect, there are no real rules, everyone does not fit into one or two or however many generic plans for them. Instead, she’s able to see both the black and the white and come back with something closer to all the colours of the rainbow response than a muddied shade of gray. Sometimes this works better than others, and sometimes the advice she offers is pointing back to their words to show them that the answer was always within, that they’ve always had the power to know their truths, to know they’ve “always had the power to go back to Kansas” but had to recognize it themselves. A buried truth they’ve always had within, yet recognized as truth once heard.

This is more than a self-help book; it’s more like reading the thoughts of one No-BS friend to another, add in her personal stories, memories, and it is also part memoir. These were drawn from her advice column on The Rumpus.net, with language that is direct and undoubtedly offensive to some people, but she is nothing if not endearing as she shares her stories in her responses.

In the introduction, Steve Almond talks about her “mission,” when her online column first began, with one letter in particular, a young man who wrote: ”Dear Sugar, WTF, WTF, WTF? I’m asking this question as it applies to everything every day.” Her response is one I will always remember, not the personal part (although that would be impossible to forget) but her ending her response with

”Ask better questions, sweet pea. The fuck is your life. Answer it.”

Clearly, this is not ‘Dear Abby,’ and ‘Miss Manners’ might faint over the improprieties discussed. If the language offends you, this book is definitely not for you, which is, really, a shame, because it has a lot to offer.

Steve Almond said of her work - ”Inexplicable sorrows await all of us. That was her essential point. Life isn’t some narcissistic game you play online. It all matters – every sin, every regret, every affliction.”

Many thanks, once again, to the Public Library system, and the many Librarians that manage, organize and keep it running, for the loan of this book!
Profile Image for jv poore.
616 reviews214 followers
March 19, 2019
I could tell you that Dear Sugar is an advice column, and technically, that would be true. More accurately, though, Dear Sugar is to an advice column what a home-made-straight-from-the-oven-chocolate-chip cookie is to a vanilla wafer.

Cheryl Strayed, aka “Sugar”, is a fascinating, compassionate, outstanding person. She doesn’t read the letters that are written to her. She absorbs them. She mulls them over. She lets the questions stew in her mind. Only then, does she write her heart out in a response. This must be why her responses are awesome.

Ms. Strayed is a truly generous person, in that she shares so much of herself in her replies. Her bravery amazes me. Her willingness to bare her soul and expose raw wounds to absolute strangers is courageous, supportive and understanding, but most importantly, natural. Only a handful of people are actually that honest and humble. She has the unique ability to be tough, sympathetic and comforting. I found that, whether or not I could identify with the letters to Sugar, I always garnered something from her responses.

A very dear friend gave me this book as a gift. It is among the top 5 presents that I have ever received. It has already become my travel companion. It lives in my favorite tote. Pages are dog-eared, passages highlighted.

My cousin suffered a stroke over the weekend. I sent him a copy of this book to help him heal. This is a book that I can, and will, give as a gift. It is versatile. It will be a fabulous happiness gift, or a gift to help someone cope, a graduation gift, or a gift to give someone hope. I believe that anyone can take something away from Dear Sugar’s replies.
I felt good reading this. I cried for some of the letter writers and I cried for Ms. Strayed. I marveled at the courage and thoughtfulness that went into each letter and that was matched by each response. I feel stronger, braver and “normal”. I found something that had been lost: confidence, in myself, and in others.

“You swam across a wide and wild sea and you made it all the way to the other side. That it feels different here on this shore than you thought it would does not negate the enormity of the distance you traversed and the strength it took you to do it.”
Profile Image for Rachel Hanes.
524 reviews276 followers
March 6, 2023
A couple of things before I get into my review. First off, I just read the updated tenth-anniversary edition of this book, which features six new columns and an updated cover. Secondly, this is a Reese Witherspoon book club pick for November, 2022 (and it did not disappoint). And lastly, Tiny Beautiful Things is going to be made into a Hulu television series airing in 2023, and I cannot wait!! Woo-Hoo! 🥳

If you love reading advice columns as much as I do, then you will definitely love this book. Cheryl Strayed was Dear Sugar for an online advice column at The Rumpus. Some of her letters and responses were published into this “tiny, beautiful” book. I loved reading every single letter and response, and some of them even made me cry (keep your tissues handy).

It’s nice reading others personal (although anonymous) letters and feeling a sense of connection through them. I wish that I would have had this book 20-30 years ago, because I think it might have helped me along the way. I’ve never really had anyone that I could talk to or confide in, and this advice column was just phenomenal. Strayed’s responses were so professional, empathetic, thoughtful, informative, and inspiring. After reading this book, I want to follow up and read everything else that Cheryl Strayed has written and follow up on her podcast.

I highly recommend reading this book, and I will be anxiously waiting for the Hulu series to air next year (hurry up!). Thank you Reese for picking this book, or else I probably would have never read it!

Edit to add: streaming on Hulu, April 7th, 2023 💛
200 reviews
August 9, 2012
If I had my way, every person in America would read this book. You would get a copy when you were born, and your parents would read it to you after they'd finished with fairy tales and before tucking you in at night. You'd get another when you started elementary school, one at the beginning and end of middle school. You'd get one at age 13, 15, and 18. You'd take your copy on your first date and the person you'd chosen to first date with would bring their copy, and all first dates would be just a comparison of the lessons you each had gleaned. You'd get another copy in the middle of each relationship, and another when you broke up. You'd be given copies at pre-wedding festivities, it would be read aloud before the "I Dos", and you and your spouse would give and get fresh copies at each anniversary. You'd get more Sugar when your children were born, and when they were growing, and when they were grown. You'd get copies when you started and ended each job, gold plated copies for retirement, and finally, they would read from Sugar to your tearful descendants when they laid you in the ground. If I had my way there would be copies of this book in every social workers office, every classroom, every house of worship, every jail, hospital, nursing home, and of course, every library. Politicians would submit Sugar essays before being deemed eligible to run. When you pulled open a drawer in a lonely hotel room, you'd see Tiny Beautiful Things laying there, right next to the Bible. If I didn't have to do things like earn a living, I would be a one woman Gideon Society for Dear Sugar, because her advice is so good, so honest, so hilarious, so sad, and so full of grace that I think we all need to know it. Maybe if we had all had Sugar all of our lives, instead of just discovering her now, we would be a more compassionate country, we would be kinder to each other and communicate more honestly, we would be better healed. I don't get to have my way (as Sugar would say, "Sweet pea, that's life."), I don't get to mandate Sugar readings for all U.S. citizens. But I do get to write book reviews, and so I can just say to anyone that is reading this, please stop. Go out and get Tiny Beautiful Things whatever way you (legally) can, and read it. Then do what I did and put it down, take a deep breath, turn it over, and read it again. I can't promise it will instantly fix your problems or make you a better person, but I feel comfortable promising that you won't be sorry.

Dear Sugar, wherever you are, thank you.
Profile Image for Vanessa.
464 reviews301 followers
May 3, 2018
“Sugar might be tender but she doesn’t sugarcoat” aptly sums up this book.

Making sense of our irrational fears, indecision’s, hurts and pain.
Sugar a.k.a Cheryl Strayed in the form of a advice consultant (sounds better than a columnist) gives practical but real advice while also giving pieces of herself sharing many of her own experiences to make this book absolutely devastating, hopeful and heartwarming.
Profile Image for Victoria.
412 reviews326 followers
May 4, 2018
After numerous recommendations and some stellar reviews, I finally decided to give Sugar (aka Cheryl Strayed) a go with this compilation of advice from her online column and in a word…phenomenal! Sugar dolls out advice from a painful life, a life of mistakes, of coming out on the other side, and her disclosures and what she lays bare will often leave you speechless. But it is her compassion and kindness, her lack of judgment yet with a healthy dose of straight talk, that won me over.

I listened to the audio and even though she is sometimes a bit shall we say ‘dramatic’ in her reading, and I could have used fewer sweet peas, it didn’t detract from the overall messages she was imparting nor the heart you could hear in her voice. As with most advice, it’s best to read in small gulps and let the insights percolate. I’m sharing a few bits from the many I bookmarked. If this sounds like someone you’d like to listen to or learn from, then give Sugar a chance.

Forgiveness doesn't sit there like a pretty boy in a bar. Forgiveness is the old fat guy you have to haul up a hill.

We like to pretend that our generous impulses come naturally. But the reality is we often become our kindest, most ethical selves only by seeing what it feels like to be a selfish jackass first. It's the reason... we have to get burned before we understand the power of fire; the reason our most meaningful relationships are so often those that continued beyond the very juncture at which they came the closest to ending.

Don't be strategic or coy. Strategic and coy are for jackasses. Be brave. Be authentic. Practice saying the word 'love' to the people you love so when it matters the most to say it, you will.

The useless days will add up to something. The shitty waitressing jobs. The hours writing in your journal. The long meandering walks. The hours reading poetry and story collections and novels and dead people’s diaries and wondering about sex and God and whether you should shave under your arms or not. These things are your becoming.

Profile Image for Diane.
1,081 reviews2,720 followers
October 27, 2014
I picked up this beautiful collection of advice columns because I had loved Strayed's memoir, Wild. But there are two things I need to tell you: First, this isn't for everyone. If you like the tough-love speak of self-help books or the writings of Elizabeth Gilbert, you will probably like this book.

Second, this isn't the kind of book you can read straight through, even if you wanted to. I would read several pages and then hit a passage that was so meaningful to me that I would have to put the book down and think about it for several days. Then I'd pick it up again, read a few more pages, and another passage would hit a nerve. And so on. But it was all so very very very good that I didn't mind the stop-and-startness of it all.

Strayed shares her personal stories when she answers reader's columns, and some of them are incredibly moving. You probably won't relate to every column in here, but you might find one or two that rock your world, in a good way.
Profile Image for Nette.
635 reviews64 followers
August 6, 2012
I gave a million stars to "Wild" but I don't like this book at all. Here's the pattern: someone asks for help in solving a life problem. "Sugar" responds by describing a vaguely similar situation from her own past (often much worse, as if to say, "You think THAT'S a problem, ya pansy?"). Then she calls the questioner "sweet pea" and "darling" about a hundred times and ends on a note of pithy inspiration. She makes Ann Lamott sound like Charles Bukowski.
Profile Image for Glenn Sumi.
404 reviews1,589 followers
April 17, 2017
Way more than a self-help book, Strayed's (Wild) collection of advice columns written under the pen name "Sugar" draws generously on her own colourful life and is written with heart, soul, humour, wisdom and something that seems in short supply these days: empathy.

At first, I found Strayed's little endearments - "sweet pea," "honeybun," etc. - cloying and rather overly familiar. But I got used to them. They're part of her voice.

I'll admit it: some columns made me tear up so bad. Others made me go, "Aha!" And I always - ALWAYS - wondered how Strayed would reply to a reader's letter. I was often correct, but Strayed's such a good writer she still surprised me with her approach.

This is a book to keep on your bedside table for inspiration, consolation and a reminder that, despite things like intolerance and illness and f-ked up people and missed chances, life and love can be so damn beautiful and rewarding, too.
Profile Image for Melanie.
279 reviews133 followers
March 11, 2018
After wavering about how to rate this I've decided on three ("I liked it" on my scale). It was way too long for me. I listened to this on audio. I never have to drive very far so it seemed to last forever.

Some of these letters were so heartbreaking; the one of the son who's parents disowned him because of being gay and the one who's son was killed by a drunk driver. Her advice there was wonderful. The letters regarding people who cheat in their marriages, love life problems, etc., I didn't really give a crap about.

I also wavered quite a bit on her replies to people. She would ramble on a lot about her own life and problems and I would wonder how it was relating to the original letter. But the parts where she talked about working with disadvantaged children broke my heart.

Up and down with my thoughts but in the end 3 stars.
Profile Image for ☮Karen.
1,536 reviews9 followers
March 3, 2018
I'd have to say that the title Tiny Beautiful Things is a bit of a misnomer for this book. There is nothing tiny about the human problems brought out in the letters that Cheryl Strayed received while writing the Dear Sugar column, and nothing tiny about the answers she returns. What she writes is not really advice so I hesitate to call it an advice column. She eloquently reminds many of the troubled souls to read their own letters back to themselves to glean the answers that they seek. She very beautifully writes of her own experiences to show people that we're all going through similar situations in one way or another and most of us get through them. The hard times we endure, in marriage for one example, allow us to open up a dialog that can lead to more openness and better relationships. Love, grief, raising children, money problems, sex, dishonesty, you name it -- Sugar knows just what to say every time, with healing empathy. Was it perfect? Not always, but pretty damn close.

Not a book I typically would have sought out (I did not care for the movie version of Wild so never read the book), but I noticed very high ratings on Goodreads from most of my friends. Thanks to them for opening me up to this lovely book, and making me see that Ms Strayed is anything but the annoying fool I perceived her to be in Wild.
Profile Image for Amanda.
271 reviews6 followers
December 22, 2012
This was memoir writing. Not much of an advice column. Her responses seemed more like a platform for her to work through her own issues or showcase the processes by which she achieved some realization or enlightenment in her own life. The letters and her stories could sometimes be entertaining and her insights weren't always painfully obvious, but this book didn't do much more than annoy me.

I found the whole "Sugar" persona irritating. The excessive "sweet pea" and "honeybuns" endearments felt very forced.
Profile Image for Margitte.
1,178 reviews531 followers
December 29, 2014
Sorry, but this is one of the most boring books I have ever read, with an equally highly boring review of it to follow!

But wait, it's not a badly-written book. IT IS A BESTSELLER AFTER ALL !! I am just not the right reader for it.

The book, a compilation of an online column in which 'Dear Sugar ' addresses the trials and troubles of people, is a hit for people who seeks emotional validation for just being themselves. The constant repeats for dramatic effect, and to stoke the emotional fires, just did not work for me at all. It reminded me too much of Oprah's modus operandi to kill a good expression by constantly repeating it. It usually then boosted her ego to do so, but turned an otherwise witty remark into stale tasteless bread.

However, like any good conversationalist, the author takes people's letters to her and turn it into her own personal journey down her own version of memory lane. Advice columns often end up being more about the columnist than the problem at hand. This book is no exception. In fact, the phenomenon is inflated to include just about every elongated experience she ever had. It becomes more of a memoir triggered by questions of people who were hoping for answers to their problems but received the columnists life story as a new beacon of hope instead.

Why would one agony aunt or uncle's column differ from another? It is also not a modern concept at all. The first agony column appeared in the Athenian Gazette in the late seventeenth century.

Modern newspaper and magazine columns include Dear Abby , Robin Abrahams , Ann Landers, Margo Howard, George W. Crane, Helen Bottel, Carolyn Hax's Tell Me About It, and Emily Yoffe's Dear Prudence. Marjorie Proops, in the 1960s and 70s, in the Daily Mirror-newspaper, regarded it as a professional duty to answer all the letters received, whether or not they were published.

Internet sites such as the Elder Wisdom Circle offer relationship advice to a broad audience; Dear Maggie offers sex advice to a predominantly Christian readership in Christianity Magazine; and Miriam's Advice Well offers advice to Jews in Philadelphia. Mrs.Web offers services at dearmrsweb.com; Ask E. Jean is another online service; Dan Savage has his own comical version called Savage Love in cyber space. And then of course, Cheryl Strayed ("Dear Sugar").One of the best replies to a letter ever: Amy Dickenson

More famous advisers are of course my all-time favorite Dear Abby, and then Dear Dr. Ruth, dear Oprah, and don't forget the tell-it-like-it-is Dr. Phil! His show receives an average of 5 million agony letters per year! These advisers have become the icons of many a million.

The cyber advisers are numerous - even a few hundred more. These advisers have, more or less, taken away the hegemonic power of the printed media who always had the one-way traffic working for them. Internet communication gave everyone an opportunity to be heard. It is more important than the desire for interaction in most cases. But the letters to columnists distinguish itself as demands to answers.

Fact is, people love to talk about their problems, particularly women, often seeking attention in tortured letters, and other people love to dish out advise based on their inflated idea of wisdom.
The impulse to share and compare personal information provides mass-market tabloid journalism with its raison d'être. It often descends into sensationalism and populism; at its worst, it is responsible for breaches of privacy and persecution of individuals (i.e. the Leveson Inquiry of 2011-13)
The real tortured soul who is serious about a solution will seek advise from a lawyer, a therapist or any professional, either an online professional blogger/columnist who eek out a living in the social arena, or the inflicted soul would be more determined, dishing out the cash in real life to find serious professional help.

Online services is mostly free service, with an ulterior motive, like free downloadable programs or services - it always has the hidden agenda with your computer! In this case, the agenda is the obvious need of the columnist to spill the beans on her own life first, and write a book about it later to cash in. She is a good writer who knows how to press the right buttons to stir up emotional gratification. Emotions sells. Period. Sentiment is a no-brainer. It sells itself.

Online opportunities pretty quickly established reality with the spotlight switched on. Pseudonyms made it possible for anyone to shout out of their own little closets. Online bullying is just one of the issues sticking out its ugly head. Exihibisionists, narcissists, rapists, pedophiles, child abuse, lonely hearts, you name it, it is there in UPPER CASE to observe. And boy, do they hit the online agony columms in their droves as well!

Interesting though, is that columnist are considered 'the lightning conductors of social unease'. They opened up the closets of socially taboo subjects. They publish the unsayable. Working-class women and stay-at-home women, in particular, got ventriloquized by skilled journalists. These columns changed social trends in a grand way.

Online columns have proven that it works much better than the paper equivalent: immediate access to readers; highly interactive; no set deadline or publishing schedule; no fixed length; relies on comments; more casual in tone; continuous conversations. These elements are all present in this column turned into a book. The risk of publishing it worked in this case. It is a best seller in this genre.

And thanks to online opportunities, the book received a few hundred more reviews than the printed version! Neat.

So, if this is your kind of gig, then go for it. And if the memoir-style of advise of a journalist will trigger the solution to your problem, this is it. You can read the column online at therumpus.net. . You don't have to buy the book, you know. But now that you did, let it work for you. Good luck and much happiness.

My life is simply too busy to appreciate it. I tried to read the book for a few weeks now, conjure up enough enthusiasm to do so and nothing about it got me hollering with joy. As you can see, and also, if you are still awake, I tried to read the book within a much broader context, trying to find something different than the usual. Sadly, the drive and excitement did not materialize. I simply could not finish it. But as I mentioned in the beginning, I am not the right reader for it. You may well be though. So enjoy. Many of you already did, and that makes me happy on one of the last days of 2014. Happy New Year to you!
Profile Image for Cathrine ☯️ .
635 reviews349 followers
April 3, 2018
4.5 🍭🍭🍭🍭s
Cheryl certainly had her A game going on when she was writing this column and frankly I’m a bit surprised how much I liked it—reason being I figured it would be more appropriate for readers far younger than myself. While that was true for many of the problems and issues submitted for her consideration it did not detract much from my pleasure in listening to this audio version read by the author. Truth: I could have used some of her wisdom-from-experience during my own youthful years (okay maybe beyond some of those years as well). Her honest and open unladylike unAnnLanders-like responses to the issues submitted impart personal anecdotes from her own life tied into the advice she offers up.
I was a fan of Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail and my response to this one was no different. Ah Sugar, you are my candy girl.
Profile Image for Ruxandra (4fără15).
239 reviews5,243 followers
July 6, 2022
3.5 ✨

Nu-mi dau seama dacă e bine sau rău, dar încă din copilărie am tendința asta să caut disperată între firele vreunui forum de fiecare dată când simt că pândesc la colț emoții negative. Poate mai mult decât alții, am nevoie constant de cuvinte încurajatoare, am nevoie să mă regăsesc în experiențele altora și mă liniștesc numai atunci când știu că cineva, undeva, a avut exact aceleași gânduri ca mine și a reușit să treacă mai departe. Când am împlinit 10 ani, ai mei mi-au făcut cadou un ceas cu radio și țin minte că mi-am dat programul de somn peste cap, stând nopțile să ascult rubrica de sfaturi în relație de la Kiss FM… Habar n-am ce mă fascina la problemele adulților atunci, dar suspectez că serile alea au contribuit la dependența mea de confesiuni online de mai târziu, însoțite obligatoriu de consilierea câtorva sute de utilizatori străini.

Simt că e cartea perfectă pentru cineva ca mine, cumva nesigur și mereu curios de experiențele altora, de posibile rezolvări sau măcar ieșiri din stările negative. Dincolo de faptul că nu au copleșit-o problemele cititorilor ei (care-i scriau în legătură cu probleme ca: adicție, regăsirea sexualității după viol, despărțiri dureroase, momentul în care absolvi liceul sau facultatea și habar n-ai ce ar trebui să faci cu viața ta), e extraordinară turnura frazelor, felul în care își formulează Sugar (Cheryl Strayed) sfaturile și le dă adâncime, în timp ce te ține în priză până la următoarea confesiune.

Sugar e scriitoare și sfaturile pe care le oferă în carte se rezumă la experiențele ei personale – practic, e o colecție de mici povestiri inspirate din lucrurile pe care le-a trăit ea, ca răspuns la problemele unor oameni disperați. Nu e psiholog și recunoaște de la început că nu o califică nimic să ofere sfaturi, dar aș zice că ți-ar plăcea cartea dacă te simți un pic pierdut, dacă te regăsești în profilul pe care ți l-am schițat mai sus sau dacă ai un of și pe nimeni cu care să discuți – în niciun caz nu e terapie, dar cuvintele ei o să te liniștească o vreme. Plus, Cheryl Strayed e o povestitoare excelentă. Ăsta ar fi motivul pentru care am mers eu mai departe cu lectura .

Am citit cartea în aeroport, după ce tocmai aflasem că avionul meu urma să ajungă cu o întârziere de peste 3 ore. Nu știam nimic despre Sugar sau autoarea cărții, dar ăsta e citatul peste care am dat întâmplător pe Instagram, și care m-a convins să-i dau o șansă:

You don’t have to get a job that makes others feel comfortable about what they perceive as your success. You don’t have to explain what you plan to do with your life. You don’t have to justify your education by demonstrating its financial rewards. You don’t have to maintain an impeccable credit score. Anyone who expects you to do any of those things has no sense of history or economics or science or the arts.

You have to pay your own electric bill. You have to be kind. You have to give it all you got. You have to find people who love you truly and love them back with the same truth. But that’s all.
Profile Image for Bianca.
1,084 reviews926 followers
April 21, 2018
Where did my review go? I posted it last night and now it's gone ... Hmm. When will I learn and start writing my reviews in Word and not directly on GR?

Here we go again.

I wouldn't have picked this to read had it not been for the raving reviews of a few GR friends, so many thanks to Esil, Glenn, Elyse and Cheri for the direct and indirect prompt.

I chose to listen to the audiobook and it was just perfect, as it was narrated by Cheryl Strayed herself.

I knew early on that this book was going to kill me as I wept while listening to the introduction read by Steve Almond.

This is so much more than just an advice column compiled in a book. Pretty much most of the answers introduce tidbits, examples from Cheryl's own life, which added more authenticity to her replies. Without a doubt, what made this book so affecting were the geniality, kindness and no-sugar coating directness of the advice offered.

I didn't even mind the terms of endearment Strayed was using, actually, I came to like them a lot.

While some issues were more pertinent to my own circumstances, I enjoyed listening to each and every one of them. Some of the letters/replies made me sob. Others made me ponder. All of them touched me.

Honestly, if I could, I would give this more than 5-stars.

Cheryl Strayed, will you be my friend?
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641 reviews534 followers
November 19, 2012
Warning: this review contains a lot of sperm.

So, a while back I was thousands of miles from home, lying on the guest bed in an all-wood flat on the second story of converted stables, a quick skip from a church that’s about 400 years older than my home country. I had my feet propped up on the wall, and an Instead Cup full of sperm stuck up inside me. I was tripping on some pretty serious adrenaline. Half of it was left over hilarity from an hour before when the originator of the sperm . . . missed, and the other half was coming straight from all the finely developed instincts of the sexually-active twenty-something who is terrified of accidental pregnancy collectively shrieking “Alert! Alert! There’s sperm in you! Call out the dogs! Alert!”

And I thought “ahahaha, how old does the kid have to be before we can tell this story?” And then, “You know, Sugar would love this.”

Not a random thought. All the tweeps (yes, I tweeted this. I tweeted the hell out of this. This might have been what Twitter was invented for). All the tweeps had some hilarious and horrifying ideas about the thematically appropriate porn I should read at that particular juncture. But what I read first was The Ghost Ship That Didn’t Carry Us. Not because I needed the advice. The letter-writer’s question had no relation to any of the questions I had been asking myself about babies and my body and commitment and love and fear. But because it was a really useful piece for me in thinking about irrevocable decisions. Like a hundred million sperm creepily swarming up your cervix while three people try not to hope too hard irrevocable.

I don’t know much about advice columns, having only ever regularly read the one. That’s on purpose, since one thing I do know is that they can be actively poisonous or ignorant or hateful. (And it’s not like Sugar gets a pass from me on that one either – one of the pieces in this collection in response to a disabled letter writer is mostly clichés and platitudes, capped off with a refusal to engage with the actual meat of the question as it pertains to, you know, being disabled.

And yet. And yet I read Sugar for years. It’s not really about the advice. I mean, most of Sugar’s advice is in response to one form of “how do I do better?” or another, and her response is basically, “you do better by doing better.” Which is true as far as it goes, but from everything I know it goes exactly as far as the other half of the answer, which is “you do better by also being very lucky.”

It’s not about the advice for me. Just a way of thinking about things. A steady internet drip-drip reminder that I ought to start with compassion, instead of exhaustion. That is not usually the message I got from the internet during 2010 and 2011, let me tell you.

Once in a while, there was a piece that did ring like a true thing. The Truth That Lives There is the biggie. One of those things that I read and was honestly shocked by, and then shocked that I was shocked. Like, ‘how did you not know that you didn’t deep down know that?’ The programming, it is insidious.

But mostly, no, not about advice qua advice. That’s not why I came back. Unless you want to take The Baby Bird as advice, which I guess I did. “Ask better questions, sweet pea. The fuck is your life. Answer it.” I actually think that piece is brilliant. Not for the sexual abuse revelations or whatever, but because it’s a kind of meditation on this whole lark of giving advice, and what it said to me was that the powerful tool here is the question, not the answer. And questions, those, I’ve got.

Dear Sugar: I said yes, yes I would carry the baby. It’s okay to need to put my head between my knees and breathe sometimes, right? Also, is there an appropriate holiday card to explain this to the in-laws?

I didn’t get pregnant with my feet propped up on the wall and an Instead cup all up in my business. At least not that first try. I was there because I want to live a big life, I want to do the hard thing, I want to be the one who said yes. We’re totally telling the kid about it someday. That and however many other hilarious, horrifying tries it takes to make him or her. The same way Sugar told the internet about how grief was part of the making of her, and losing her father over and over again, and her work with at-risk teens. Because it will be hysterical to scandalize the poor kid, and also because the stories of where we come from are thematic, revelatory, and what these stories reveal is that a lot more than the usual compliment of people needed to get together and be their best, most generous selves, just because they wanted to make a new human. Also, that sperm is gross.

Sugar was a little bit of what got me there with my feet propped up on the wall. It was by no means a done deal at any point during the negotiations and the hard talks. But the steady stream of “be your best self,” and “you already know what you need to do,” it helped, I think. It’s not advice. No one could advise on irrevocable decisions like this one from the outside (though lots of people certainly think they have a right to, let me tell you). But it helped get me there anyway, and that’s plenty enough for me.
Profile Image for Catherine.
337 reviews96 followers
January 5, 2019
It’s hard to think of the perfect thing to say that would accurately convey what this book has done to me but the one thing that I know for certain is that it was life-altering. I’m better for having read this, and that, to me, is what all the best books do—they make you feel changed for the better.

This book is a compilation of advice columns answered by a woman who goes by the name, ‘Sugar’. It is what the title says it is—advice on life and love—but for almost the whole book, I wondered why it was called Tiny Beautiful Things. It’s not until I finished that I understood that it is sometimes the tiny, beautiful, seemingly-meaningless things about life that you don’t think matter that much in the moment which are the things you look back on as some of the most profound of your life.

The letters written to Sugar over the course of this book come from people of all ages, backgrounds, religious beliefs, and the like—people who are lost, confused, lonely, desperate, and scared, looking for someone to give them answers. Sugar isn’t some all-knowing fortune teller with a crystal ball who can see into your future, and she doesn’t claim to be; she is a real human being like you or I who has also been lost, confused, lonely, desperate, and scared. That is what makes her advice so good. That is why thousands of people write to her—because even if she hasn’t been in their particular situation, she makes them feel understood by bringing up her own experiences and never saying that they are wrong for feeling what they do. And feeling understood feels really, really good, especially when you are going through tough situations that make you feel alone, as many of these people were. Even though I can’t say I have experienced half of the exact things that people wrote in about were going through, I can say that I have experienced the same emotions, which made the stories feel relatable regardless.

This was eye-opening and, at times, a heavy and emotional read. I really cannot recommend it enough, and I will be giving it a reread in the future for sure.

What would you tell your twentysomething self if you could talk to her now?

There are some things you can’t understand yet. Your life will be a great and continuous unfolding. You will come to know things that can only be known with the wisdom of age and the grace of years. The useless days will add up to something. The shitty waitressing jobs. The hours writing in your journal. The long meandering walks. The hours reading poetry and story collections and novels and dead people’s diaries and wondering about sex and God and whether you should shave under your arms or not. These things are your becoming.
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