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

By Cheryl Strayed

(Knopf Doubleday, $14.95, 368 pages)

Who is this author?

Cheryl Strayed, best known to many readers as the “Dear Sugar” advice columnist for the online magazine The Rumpus (www.therumpus.net), also is a memoirist (“Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail)” and novelist  (“Torch”). She has written stories and essays for The New York Times Magazine, The Washington Post Magazine, Vogue, Allure and other major publications. Strayed lives in Portland, Oregon, quite possibly America’s hippest city, and her frank, penetrating, empathetic advice columns reflect her deep understanding of current-day emotional dilemmas and dramas.

What is this book about?

It’s about life and love and heartbreak and spirituality and the various emotional dilemmas we all suffer though. It’s also about the comfort of learning that no matter how unusual your personal problem seems to be, chances are someone else has experienced something similar and Strayed has written about it. Some of the pieces in this book have not been previously published; others show why Sugar was such a popular advisor.

Why you’ll like it:

Strayed/Sugar is known for her ability to get to the heart of the matter and to speak to her correspondents in especially vivid ways. Here she is on that all-too-common problem of getting over a lost love:

“You let time pass. That’s the cure. You survive the days. You cry and wallow and lament and scratch your way back up through the months. And then one day you find yourself alone a bench in the sun and you close your eyes and lean your head back and you realize you’re okay.”

Advice columnists, from Ann Landers to Ask Amy, have always attracted huge (and hurting) readerships. Sugar sweetly, but never tritely, offers comfort to the lovelorn and is not afraid to chastise those who deserve it. Chances are that even if your particular problem is not addressed here, you will find these essays compelling.

What others are saying:

Publishers Weekly says:

“Strayed … chooses thought-provoking questions from her readers and listens deeply to their emotional content. In casually intimate prose (to a struggling writer: “dear sweet arrogant beautiful crazy tortured talented rising star glowbug”) and literary grace, she creates moments of wise, compassionate insight in often startlingly personal miniature memoirs, cradling gentle but practical guidance with enough humor to cement Strayed’s presence as both a mentor and the most understanding of friends. Sugar can be tough and honest (to the same struggling writer: “buried beneath all the anxiety and sorrow and fear and self-loathing , there’s arrogance at its core”), but she’s never mean: in Sugar’s world, we all deserve love unconditionally, but also owe it to ourselves to act in the world to be the best, most authentic selves that we can be. For a regrounding in the beauty of what it means to be flawed and gorgeously human, for answers that feel real whether we’ve been able to ask the right question, Strayed’s caring little essays offer surprisingly rich comfort.”

“…Dear Sugar” quickly attracted a large and devoted following with its cut-to-the-quick aphorisms like …”Be brave enough to break your own heart.” This collection gathers up the best of Sugar, whose trademark is deeply felt and frank responses grounded in her own personal experience. In many ways, it is a portrait of Strayed herself: she describes her estranged father, her passionate but doomed first marriage, her relationship with her current husband (Mr. Sugar), and, most thoroughly, her much-missed mother, who died suddenly while Strayed was in college. She answers queries on subjects ranging from professional jealousy to leaving a loved partner to coping with the death of a child…Part advice, part personal essay, these pieces grapple with life’s biggest questions. Beautifully written and genuinely wise, this book is full of heartache and love. Highly recommended,” says Library Journal.

 “Sugar’s Golden Rule–”Trust Yourself”–pushes the author and her readers to embrace themselves and not be afraid of asking life’s complex questions… Men and women of all ages contact her hoping she can solve their problems, which include affairs, the loss of a loved one, self-acceptance and understanding the point of existence. In thematic sections, the author presents verbatim letters and their detailed published replies. Strayed’s practical advice mixes with abundant personal anecdotes in which she illustrates to the addressee the reasoning behind her counsel. … Appealing to Dear Sugar fans and self-help seekers alike, this “collection of intimate exchanges between strangers” demonstrates that wisdom doesn’t come only from age, but also from learning from the experiences of others. A realistic and poignant compilation of the intricacies of relationships,” says Kirkus Reviews.

“Strayed is less therapist than long-suffering friend who wants to show you how her spiritual reawakening can be yours, too…[she] is an eloquent storyteller, and her clear-eyed prose offers a bracing empathy absent from most self-help blather, says The Washington Post.

When is it available?

You can get Strayed’s collection now at the Barbour or Mark Twain branches of the Hartford Public Library or request a copy to be picked up at the downtown library.

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