Julie Christine's Reviews > Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar

Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed
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Dear Sugar,

I didn’t want to read your book. I don’t read advice columns as a matter of principle. Needy people, foolish people frustrate me. To read an entire book of advice column Q&A seemed about as necessary as professional football, with the same end result for this reader as for those players: heads bashing into unmovable objects.

But my book club selected it. Duty calls.

A bunch of shit happened in the three days I took to read your book. Like, universe is speaking to me shit.

The First Day (Parts I & II):
On this achingly bright morning I was securing a hank of hair in a little clip when I noticed gray hairs. Now, my first gray hair appeared in 1999 when we bought our first house and I’ve had a few more here and there over the years, but they’ve always been curiosities, anomalies. This morning, however, my hair was streaked in silvery white strands. I’m crazy-nearsighted and in the months I’ve become a full-time writer, I have little reason to examine my face in the mirror; I think I last wore mascara in October. So maybe that gray has been there for a long time and it took the rays of sunshine through the skylight at just the right time to expose my new middle-aged reality.

I checked the next morning at the same time, with the same intense sun pouring through the skylight. Yep. Still there. But the hair isn’t gray. The strands are silvery white against my natural auburn. They are beautiful. I can’t fathom trying to cover them up with chemicals.

I won’t complain that people often assume I’m several years younger than I am, but along with that assumption comes the presumption that I haven’t lived, haven’t experienced, don’t quite know or get or “Just wait until you’re my age …” This beautiful hair says “Yeah, baby. I’m forty-fucking-five. I’ve lived it. I get it. I’m older than you know.”

I almost stopped reading after How Do You Get Unstuck—only the second Dear Sugar— about the woman suffering after her miscarriage and you sharing the horror stories of the young women you’d encountered as a youth advocate. It was all too raw for me. It hit too close to home. But I kept going and a few dozen pages later, you rewarded me with Write Like a Motherfucker, a statement I printed in Sharpie on a Post-It and pinned to my bulletin board.

Dudes in the Woods gave me a different way to think about friendship and I realized I needed to share a piece of knowledge about someone with a mutual friend—that it wasn’t gossip, but a search for the best way to help. Turns out that mutual friend was suffering, too, and now we’re able to move forward together. The Woman Hanging on the End of the Line slapped me in the face with the force of my own bitterness and rage at a few individuals who wronged and betrayed my husband and me and the price I’ve paid for that rage. I’m not sure I’m ready to let it go just yet, but now I accept that I have a choice.

The Second Day (Part III and IV):
I went to coffee with a new writer friend (three lovely words, don’t you think?). We shared our writing journeys. I explained I’d wanted to be a writer my entire life, but I quit writing at ten, when my parents split, and didn’t resume until I was 41, after I lost my first pregnancy. And finally found the courage to begin my novel days after losing my second, when I was 43. Those are the facts.

You succeeded in making me cry with Beauty and the Beast and laugh out loud with The Known Unknowns: “I’d rather be sodomized by a plastic lawn flamingo than vote for a Republican…” Can I use that? I’ll credit you, of course! But it was A Glorious Something Else I’ll carry with me: “…boundaries have nothing to do with whether you love someone or not. They are not judgments, punishments, or betrayals. They are a purely peaceable thing: the basic principles you identify for yourself that define the behaviors that you will tolerate from others, as well the as the responses you will have to those behaviors.”

Day Three (Part V):
I finished your book this morning. Of course you would end with a letter from a reader who wondered what your now-forty-something self would tell your twenty-something self that made me cry. I closed your book and cried loud, cathartic sobs. My twenty-something self had already found an amazing guy and was deep into a rewarding career, so it’s not like I could relate to your encounters with the Ecstasy-dropping gay couple or your heroin addiction or failed first marriage. But there are other pains, other regrets, other mistakes, betrayalsabandonmentslosseshates for which I cried. It was a collective of tears for the stories I’d read and the empathy I’d felt.

Moments later I learned a friend’s marriage is ending, with a bitter custody battle underway. Reading her words, I became my ten-year-old self, caught between two bitter, angry, vengeful people who had a choice. And didn’t choose me. Didn’t choose what was best for me. They chose hate and recrimination instead of cooperation and love. I wrote to my friend with that little girl’s soul, hoping she would make the right choice for her young son. And then I went for a run.

I ran in the same aching light that three days before had revealed the undeniable proof: my body is fading from the solid brilliance of youth to silvery, tenuous old age. I ran straight into the epiphany that I stopped writing when the child I’d been was abandoned and her world fell apart and didn’t begin again until I accepted the loss of my own children and let go the hope of being a mother. I knew these as facts—I had relayed them to my new friend two days before—but I hadn’t felt the facts as emotions until that moment, in the 16° wind chill and determined sunlight. I had to stop running. I was laughing and crying so hard, I couldn’t breathe.

Dear Sugar, I'm ETAing to let you know that one of my brothers called me a few days after I posted this review to my blog. He said he'd learned more about me from reading my review than he'd ever known. But isn't that why you published this collection? To learn about yourself? Good on you. I reckon it worked.

Yours,

Going for Silver

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Reading Progress

January 8, 2014 – Shelved
January 8, 2014 – Shelved as: book-club-selection
January 8, 2014 – Shelved as: to-read
February 3, 2014 – Started Reading
February 3, 2014 – Shelved as: reference-instructional
February 3, 2014 – Shelved as: social-political-commentary
February 3, 2014 –
page 95
25.82% "I'm struggling mightily here. Very mixed emotions and not sure if I want to continue. What I really don't want is to discuss any of this with book club."
February 4, 2014 –
page 187
50.82% "In a much better place, and seeing the beauty in many of these exchanges, but still certain I don't want to spend an evening talking about my reactions. I'll bring homemade cookies and stuff my face. That'll make me feel better. Yeah."
February 5, 2014 – Shelved as: read-2014
February 5, 2014 – Shelved as: best-of-2014
February 5, 2014 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-50 of 67 (67 new)


Julie Christine February book club read


Julie Christine Here we go. Not sure that I really want to read this, but book club duties beckon.


message 3: by Heather (new) - added it

Heather Fineisen Sounds like this one got under your skin...


Melanie Loved that book...


Suzanne :) When I finished this, I wanted to run out and buy a copy for everyone I've ever met (if only I had a much, much bigger book budget).


message 6: by Jennifer (new) - added it

Jennifer I found Cheryl Strayed because of the online columns she wrote anonymously that turned into this book. They are amazing. She was amazing. It was fun to find out who was behind them, and I have liked her other work, but I have only truly loved and been stunned by her Dear Sugar work. I actually have a Dear Sugar poster hanging in my kitchen (a compilation of some of her wise words).


Julie Christine Each time I sit down to write a proper review, I start to cry. Must buy own copy.


Suzanne Yeah, the library hates it when you get their copy all soggy. (I had the same problem.)


message 9: by Angela (new) - added it

Angela Julie, this is a beautiful review. I am so thankful to have you in my GR Life. You rock.


Suzanne Hell of a book, isn't it? Thanks for sharing your reactions.


message 11: by Peg (new)

Peg Oh my. You took my breath away.


message 12: by Joan (new) - rated it 5 stars

Joan Best review ever!!


Annagrace K. Yes, yes, yes, yes. You said it.


Julie Christine Oh thank you all so much! What a gift to be so moved by a book and to have such a place of kindred spirits!


Annagrace K. Julie, I'm just a stranger/follower, but after reading some of your reviews I can say with confidence that I would happily read anything you write (or have written?) xoxo


message 16: by Cheryl (new)

Cheryl I hope you add these facts to your work someday, Julie. Stunning review!


NancyL Luckey This book has just become a book club choice, thanks to your wonderful review!


message 18: by Suzanne (new) - added it

Suzanne I always value your reviews. I guess I'll have to read this. If you ever want change careers, go into sales. You always make me want whatever you've read!


Margitte Brilliant piece of work! Just wow! This is the kind of review that I really appreciate. Gut-wrenchingly honest, straight from the heart!


Magdalena Oh, what a beautiful review, Julie! Some people just have a way with words, they can touch your heart and soul, your very being. And you are one of those people! Thank you!


Julie Christine Annagrace wrote: "Julie, I'm just a stranger/follower, but after reading some of your reviews I can say with confidence that I would happily read anything you write (or have written?) xoxo"

You are so sweet, Annagrace (and what a beautiful name). I'm editing novel one and working steadily on novel two, so who knows... Someday!! I'd be honored to have you read my writing.


Julie Christine Cheryl wrote: "I hope you add these facts to your work someday, Julie. Stunning review!"

Thank you so much, Cheryl!


Julie Christine NancyL wrote: "This book has just become a book club choice, thanks to your wonderful review!"

Nancy, I will be so curious to see how your book club responds. I have a couple of weeks to decide whether or not I'll attend mine. :)


Julie Christine Suzanne wrote: "I always value your reviews. I guess I'll have to read this. If you ever want change careers, go into sales. You always make me want whatever you've read!"

LOL- that's awesome, Suzanne. There's a little bookstore in Corvallis, OR I've long fantasized about owning. That'd be my kind of sales!


Julie Christine Margitte wrote: "Brilliant piece of work! Just wow! This is the kind of review that I really appreciate. Gut-wrenchingly honest, straight from the heart!"

Thank you so, so much Margitte. There was just no other way I could respond to this!


Julie Christine Magdalena wrote: "Oh, what a beautiful review, Julie! Some people just have a way with words, they can touch your heart and soul, your very being. And you are one of those people! Thank you!"

That's a beautiful thing to write, Magdalena. I'm touched and honored.


message 27: by Suzanne (new) - added it

Suzanne I've read 4 or 5 letters so far. Strayad's message so far has been "just do it." I was just chilling , half dressed. So, I got the rest of me dressed, and went to a lecture on Mendelson . I saw a lot of people who I haven't seen since I got out of the hospital in August. I just did it, though it would have been easier to read. Thanks for selling me the book.


message 28: by Joan (new) - rated it 5 stars

Joan Thank you so much for your review which placed this book on my radar. OMG, I want Sugar for my sister, my best friend, my therapist. I want to call out sick from work today so I can continue to steep in her words. What a book! I am in awe of her unique combination of honesty, compassion and wisdom.


Julie Christine Joan wrote: "Thank you so much for your review which placed this book on my radar. OMG, I want Sugar for my sister, my best friend, my therapist. I want to call out sick from work today so I can continue to st..." Joan, I'm so glad this is finding its way into your heart!


Julie Christine Suzanne wrote: "I've read 4 or 5 letters so far. Strayad's message so far has been "just do it." I was just chilling , half dressed. So, I got the rest of me dressed, and went to a lecture on Mendelson . I sa..."

It couldn't have been easy, getting out- I'm glad the effort was rewarded by the pleasure of seeing old friends.


message 31: by Erika (new) - added it

Erika Nerdypants Thanks Julie. Hands down the best review of a book I've ever read. I want to go out and get this based on your review. And I don't even like Cheryl Strayed.


message 32: by Heather (new) - added it

Heather Fineisen Love Love Love!!!! You never know how or if your words will connect, welcome to being a writer!


message 33: by Chris (last edited Feb 26, 2014 03:06AM) (new)

Chris Talk about getting old! I don't remember reading your review, but apparently I looked at it at some point, because I "liked" it! I sat down and read it (again?) with my morning cup of tea and I don't just like this, I LOVE it! By far your best review, evah!!!

I, too, am not crazy about Cheryl Strayed, but you've made me want to pick up this book!


Julie Christine Erika wrote: "Thanks Julie. Hands down the best review of a book I've ever read. I want to go out and get this based on your review. And I don't even like Cheryl Strayed."

Erika, Thank you. Just an amazing thing to say.

I resisted this because of negative impressions I held of Cheryl Strayed. I was challenged to let those go and accept the power of the words before me. Still thinking through this, to be honest. Haven't jumped on the 'Wild' train, but someday I might...


Julie Christine Heather wrote: "Love Love Love!!!! You never know how or if your words will connect, welcome to being a writer!"

Heather, I'm jumping up and down on the welcome mat. It feels so good!


Julie Christine Chris wrote: "Talk about getting old! I don't remember reading your review, but apparently I looked at it at some point, because I "liked" it! I sat down and read it (again?) with my morning cup of tea and I don..."

Chris, that is darling. And thank you!!


message 37: by Stacy (new) - added it

Stacy Beautiful review. I, also, have shied away from this book because I DO NOT read advice columns. I am going to pick this book up now. Thank you. :)


Margi Finch Christ, I hope the book is half as gorgeous as your review is. Where can I find your book to read more of your beautiful words?


Julie Christine Margi wrote: "Christ, I hope the book is half as gorgeous as your review is. Where can I find your book to read more of your beautiful words?" Aww, Margi, thank you!! I've got some stories out there, but novels in various states of revision. The quixotic quest for an agent is set to begin this fall. Tap wood!


Julie Christine Stacy wrote: "Beautiful review. I, also, have shied away from this book because I DO NOT read advice columns. I am going to pick this book up now. Thank you. :)"
Thank you, Stacy- and sorry for the belated reply. Have you picked this up yet?


message 41: by Kats (new)

Kats Your review has taken me by surprise and made me cry. Hard.
But now I'm scared to read the book and what it will do to me...
(Please let us know when your novel is published, I love your writing!)


Julie Christine Kats wrote: "Your review has taken me by surprise and made me cry. Hard.
But now I'm scared to read the book and what it will do to me...
(Please let us know when your novel is published, I love your writi..."


Kats, I think you know what I'm going to say: Read This. Let it rip you apart.

Thank you for the amazing comment. I'm so touched and moved by your words.

And good news on the publishing front for this writer. Things are happening :)


message 43: by Anshul (new)

Anshul Jain This is such a beautiful review. goodreads mobile app doesn't let me like it or follow you, but I would gladly do that the next time I'm on laptop.


Elizabeth this review. I just cried a little and if I was not at work would probably do the ugly cry. this review is a beautiful piece of writing.


Julie Christine Elizabeth wrote: "this review. I just cried a little and if I was not at work would probably do the ugly cry. this review is a beautiful piece of writing."
Elizabeth, what an amazing thing to say. Thank you. I guess I bled a bit on the page here...


Julie Christine Anshul wrote: "This is such a beautiful review. goodreads mobile app doesn't let me like it or follow you, but I would gladly do that the next time I'm on laptop."
Anshul- I'm so grateful for your comment- thank you!


message 47: by Nina (new) - added it

Nina What a great review, I touched me a lot! Thank you for your beautiful words.


Julie Christine Nina wrote: "What a great review, I touched me a lot! Thank you for your beautiful words."

Thank you for the beautiful comment, Nina.


Laysee Dear Julie, your review hit me in the solar plexus as did this book. They were both very moving. I'd love to read your book when it is published. All the best!


Julie Christine Laysee wrote: "Dear Julie, your review hit me in the solar plexus as did this book. They were both very moving. I'd love to read your book when it is published. All the best!"

Laysee, I'm so honored by your comment- thank you!


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