In the introduction to Tiny Beautiful Things, Steve Almond says that this book will “endure as a piece of literary art, as will Cheryl’s other books, because they do the essential work of literary art: they make us more human than we were before.” That’s really all you need to know about this book: It will make you more human that you were before.
For those not in the know, Tiny Beautiful Things is a collection of advice columns that Cheryl Strayed (also the author of Wild, a wonderful memoir, just released also in a wonderful film adaptation) wrote for The Rumpus. She wrote the column anonymously as “Sugar.” Her responses to reader’s “Dear Sugar” letters include so much wisdom and humanity that your soul will fill up and you will feel better about the world. Certain lines will speak to you and you’ll mark them and let them comfort you often.
If you want a sample of her beautiful words, head over to the GoodReads quote page, where many of the most lovely passages have been added.
I also highly recommend the audiobook version. Cheryl Strayed narrates it herself, and she does a wonderful job. I expect I will listen to it many more times.
Here’s an except from my favorite column in the collection, The Ghost Ship That Didn’t Carry Us:
“If I could go back in time I’d make the same choice in a snap. And yet, there remains my sister life. All the other things I could have done instead. I wouldn’t know what I couldn’t know until I became a mom, and so I’m certain there are things I don’t know because I can’t know because I did. Who would I have nurtured had I not been nurturing my two children over these past seven years? In what creative and practical forces would my love have been gathered up? What didn’t I write because I was catching my children at the bottoms of slides and spotting them as they balanced along the tops of low brick walls and pushing them endlessly in swings? What did I write because I did? Would I be happier and more intelligent and prettier if I had been free all this time to read in silence on a couch that sat opposite of Mr. Sugar’s? Would I complain less? Has sleep deprivation and the consumption of an exorbitant number of Annie’s Homegrown Organic Cheddar Bunnies taken years off my life or added years onto it? Who would I have met if I had bicycled across Iceland and hiked around Mongolia and what would I have experienced and where would that have taken me?
I’ll never know, and neither will you of the life you don’t choose. We’ll only know that whatever that sister life was, it was important and beautiful and not ours. It was the ghost ship that didn’t carry us. There’s nothing to do but salute it from the shore.”