The author of Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar, Cheryl Strayed, is well-known for her memoir about hiking, Wild. The book occupied a top spot on the list of bestsellers in the New York Times for seven years. Tiny Beautiful Things is also a memoir with a strong element of self-help built in it; the author is in the role of Sugar who answers questions sent to her by ordinary people for the Dear Sugar advice column.
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However, Tiny Beautiful Things is more than just an advice column as it has become its own category of style. The author addresses topics experienced by anyone: love, hate, grief, fear, abuse, family, and more. The most prominent characteristic of the advice Sugar gives is that it’s rough a characteristic called ‘radical empathy.’
Usually, brave first-person writing is not associated with an advice column genre, but Cheryl Strayed has managed to make a significant exception in this. In most of her advice column entries, Strayed makes parallels to her own life and experiences she has to go through. Her advice is rough in the edges, she does not always make sure that the reader is not offended, she finds tough sympathy the most effective: “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” (Strayed 351).
Thus, the kind of advice Strayed gives is closely related to her experiences; she does not bother to protect herself from offending the reader, on the other hand, she looks for ways to shock a person with her words so that he or she starts doing something with the problem that exists.
In my opinion, the greatest advantage of Tiny Beautiful Things is that it is unlike any other advice column. Reading it is similar to talking to an older and much more experienced girlfriend: she does not bother about your feelings, all she cares about is making you move forward without focusing too much attention on obstacles that occur in your life: “I can’t tell you what to do. No one can. But as the mother of two children, I can tell you what most moms will: that mothering is absurdly hard and profoundly sweet” (Strayed 118).
The disadvantage of the book, in my opinion, is that the author sometimes tries too hard to make the ‘shock’ therapy work. Some passages that describe her private life in detail in cases were unnecessary. On the other hand, such details are justified by the open and direct manner of the narrative.
Any person can benefit from reading Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar because it involves a variety of aspects of human life mentioned above. Because the book is written in an open manner, because it touches upon sensitive subjects of human life, and because it goes beyond a regular characteristic of a simple advice column, Tiny Beautiful Things is a significant piece of literature that will transcend time and culture. Since people will always ask others for advice and sympathy, Cheryl Strayed has written a piece that will encourage them to move forward and stop being sorry for themselves.
Strayed, Cheryl. Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar, Toronto, Canada: Vintage Books Original, 2012. Print.