Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar by Cheryl Strayed, 2012
Published by Vintage
First line: “Dear Sugar, My twenty-year marriage fell apart.”
Book Rx: For honest advice with a whole lot of heart.
Tiny Beautiful Things is a compilation of selected letters to ‘Dear Sugar,’ an advice column on therumpus.net. Cheryl Strayed was eventually revealed to be Sugar. Her column has since stopped; the last letter you’ll see on the website was from way back in 2012.
My sister recommended this book to me. At that time, I was thinking long and hard about the When’s or If’s of having kids, about all the things I still want to do and how having a baby might change all that. She gave me this book and suggested that I read the letter from Undecided titled ‘The Ghost Ship That Didn’t Carry Us.’
Undecided was exploring the idea of whether to become a dad “for real and deeply.” Yet, he knew what he would miss: “quiet, free time, spontaneous travel, pockets of nonobligation.” This is what Sugar wrote:
There’s a poem I love by Tomas Tranströmer called “The Blue House.” […] The poem is narrated by a man who is standing in the woods near his house. When he looks at his house from this vantage point, he observes that it’s as if he’d just died and he was now “seeing the house from a new angle.” […] Every life, Tranströmer writes, “has a sister ship,” one that follows “quite another route” than the one we ended up taking. We want it to be otherwise, but it cannot be: the people we might have been live a different, phantom life than the people we are.
This is how Sugar writes. She doesn’t preach, or talk at her readers, the way some other advice columnists do. She talks to you, deftly weaving her own personal challenges (her strong bond with her mom, her difficulties with her dad, failed relationships) with compassionate advice for those who took the time to write to her.
The advice isn’t perfect; the advice-giver isn’t, either. Sugar herself knows this. In her words, she’s “totally unqualified for this gig.” Sugar is real, flawed, filled with love, and so very human — just like her letter-writers, her “sweet peas.” My point is, each and every one of us — we’re all in the same boat.
One of my favorite letters simply goes, “Dear Sugar, WTF, WTF, WTF? I’m asking this question as it applies to everything every day.”
Sugar writes, honestly and thoughtfully, about how she was molested as a child. At the end of her letter, she says:
The question does not apply “to everything every day.” If it does, you’re wasting your life. If it does, you’re a lazy coward, and you are not a lazy coward.
Ask better questions, sweet pea. The fcuk is your life. Answer it.