tiny beautiful things
Despite my expectations and unlike many, many people I did not fall in Love with Cheryl Strayed's memoir, Wild.
I had difficulty with her memoir on enough levels that, despite similar gushings about Tiny Beautiful Things, a collection of her writings as the advice columnist Dear Sugar, I was somewhat reluctant to pick it up.
But.. Oh. My. God.
Be careful here, please.
This is difficult.
On the balance, this is more of another memoir than it is anything else. I have rarely seen a writer as honest as Strayed. She doesn't bare her soul to you. She picks up a dull, rusty razor and slowly slices herself open and scatters her soul around, pours lemon juice all over it, and sets it on fire. Had someone told me this before reading Tiny, I would've said that's too much. I would've judged that perhaps she was being narcissistic and I would've been wrong and I would've then judged myself for being so unkind.
Because it is in the interest of helping the letter writers, of soothing others, of relating to you that Strayed allows herself such vulnerability. There's just no possible way you can read through this collection without seeing yourself in at least one of the letters, and at least one of Strayed's responses. The likelihood is that you will recognize your own anguish, love, indecision, fears, in more than one story.
There are a couple letters where you might think, "Man, this guy is really a self-important asshole" and you might finish Strayed's response to him still believing he's an asshole but you'll still be impressed by the advice and empathy Strayed manages to garner for him. While frequently calling people on their shit she still manages to relate to their shit and helps them move forward into being a better person despite the shit.
I had to read this over the course of several nights and several weeks. I could only read so much in a session because it's all depressing and beautiful and eloquent and astounding (all at once).
Tiny Beautiful Things is overwhelming. It's just incredible and devastating and so very, very worth it. Just be ready.