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A Reading Vocation

"I Must Read, Read, and Read. It is my Vocation." - Thomas Merton

This is where I chronicle my reading life.  I also blog about writing at Lacey's Late-night Editing.

 

Book 27/100: Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed

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

I read nothing but good reviews of this collection, and I'm afraid that I'll do nothing but just throw another one on top of the pile.

Even if you aren't the sort who likes advice columns or self help, "Sugar's" columns are so beautifully written, poignant, and compassionate that they can speak to almost anyone. I think anyone who picks up this book will relate to at least one of the letters; I related to several and found myself hanging on "Sugar's" every word of her response. Even those far outside the reader's own experience are valuable because they further open one's heart to the secret pains and struggles of others.

As much as her deep compassion, I also appreciated Sugar's "tough love" in some of the letters -- when she told the writers that they were whiny, or entitled, or that they needed to get over themselves. I didn't always agree with her advice, but it was still clear she put a lot of heart and thought into everything she told these strangers.

Because Sugar shares so many of her own stories in her responses, Steve Almond in his introduction says this book ends up being something of an "ad-hoc memoir." Which is true; for readers who have also read/seen Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, even moreso, since they have a deeper context for the short stories Sugar tells in her column. Sometimes these personal stories seemed to be exactly what the advice seeker needed -- such as Cheryl relating her own husband's infidelity to an engaged woman who had just been disillusioned by learning of her sister's affairs when she thought her sister had the "perfect marriage." Other times, it seemed more that Cheryl needed to tell her story and was shoe-horning it into a response to the asker's question. But it's all done so beautifully that one can hardly mind, especially through the tears.