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Book Review: Tiny Beautiful Things

Let yourself be gutted. Let it open you. Start here. ~ Cheryl Strayed

Cheryl Strayed’s Tiny Beautiful Things features a beautiful collection of well-crafted, undeniably relatable letters, along with astute responses from advice columnist ‘Sugar’ (Strayed).

The premise of Tiny Beautiful Things is simple, yet paramount. Countless readers write to Sugar, in the hopes that she will dole out succinct, pertinent and compassionate advice, sprinkled with doses of tough love. And not one response fails to do just that.

Strayed isn’t a professionally trained clinical psychologist, but in a way, that’s what makes her replies inspirational. Because of Strayed’s past experiences, because of her endearing tenderness for humanity, she is quintessentially the perfect voice for Sugar.

These thoughtful letters illustrate a wide variety of issues, including grief, infidelity, strained family relationships and a general feeling of restlessness, by individuals who feel stuck and lost.

Sugar’s words are earnest, honest and heartfelt, echoing pivotal truths.

“Nobody will protect you from your suffering,” she writes to a grief-stricken woman.

“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. You have to live through it and love it and move on and be better for it and run as far as you can in the direction of your best and happiest dreams across the bridge that was built by your own desire to heal. Therapists and friends and other people who live on Planet My Baby Died can help you along the way, but the healing — the genuine healing, the actual real deal down-on-your-kneees-in-the-mud change — is entirely and absolutely up to you.”

When one nervous 29-year-old writes to Sugar, wary about her upcoming wedding vows, Sugar responds: “It’s a long damn life, Happily Ever After.”

“And people get mucked up in it from time to time. Even the people we marry. Even us. You don’t know what it is you’ll get mucked up in yet, but if you’re lucky, and if you and your fiance are really right for each other, and if the two of you build a marriage that lasts a lifetime, you’re probably going to get mucked up in a few things along the way. This is scary, but it’s okay. Sometimes the thing you fear most in your relationship turns out to be the thing that brings you and your partner to a deeper place of understanding and intimacy.”

In an interview Strayed discusses the universal nature of her Dear Sugar column and how readers’ letters truly encourage her to help herself and reflect upon her own life.

“Ultimately, the truth is that we have to help ourselves — we all benefit from people helping us, but we will never get anywhere if we don’t help ourselves,” she said.

“[There is] a universal truth that we are all responsible for our lives — that we all suffer, and we all try to find light in that darkness, strength in that weakness….I’m talking to myself too — all the time, every day. It’s not as if I have the answer, and I’m giving the answers. I’m, instead, really down there in the struggle, speaking to it, trying to speak as openly as possible about what it means to be human.”

Cheryl Strayed’s Tiny Beautiful Things is a testament to the human condition. Don’t pass it by.

Book Review: Tiny Beautiful Things

Psych Central's Recommendation:
Worth Your Time! +++

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Lauren Suval

Lauren Suval studied print journalism and psychology at Hofstra University, and she is a writer based in New York. Her work has been featured on Thought Catalog, Catapult Community, and other online publications. Lauren's e-book “Coping With Life’s Clutter” and her latest book, “The Art Of Nostalgia,” a collection of personal essays, can both be found on Amazon. She loves to be followed on Twitter @LaurenSuval.

APA Reference
Suval, L. (2016). Book Review: Tiny Beautiful Things. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 29, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 17 May 2016
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 17 May 2016
Published on Psych All rights reserved.