Thursday, November 13, 2014

REVIEW: Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed

Original Publication Year: 2012
Genre(s): Non-fiction, Self-help/Advice, Memoir
Series: NA
Awards: None
Format: Audio (digital from Library)
Narrated by: Cheryl Strayed

I have seen this book recommended seemingly everywhere over the last year or so. It's been a regular full blown case of the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon.  I was finally spurred to read it by its appearance on a list of self-help books that are actually helpful on Book Riot.

Cheryl Strayed served as the advice columnist on a website called The Rumpus which focuses mostly on the literary world and writers.  This book is a selection of the letters she received and her answers. 

She is not your everyday advice columnist and I think that ends up working really well.  Some things I think set this book apart:

1)    Strayed is a writer by profession and it shows.  The writing in her responses is beautiful, sometimes even poetic and she is a fantastic storyteller.
2)     The thought and energy she must put behind most of her answers is astonishing, particularly when you reflect that she was performing the job as a volunteer.  It emphasizes that each answer is personal and full of care.
3)     Strayed operates from a place of extraordinary compassion and each of her responses is low on judgment and high on acceptance.
4)     The book must be seen as part memoir as she uses stories of her experiences and life to inform her answers and to illustrate points.  She shares a lot of herself which I think makes the book more interesting.

To my mind, the overall theme of Strayed’s advice is that life is frequently unfair and out of our control but we are empowered by being completely in control of how we react and face these situations. Take responsibility for your life, the bad and the good.  I think that’s a pretty universal truth and she expresses it well, sometimes in heartbreakingly beautiful ways.  Here are some examples of her writing style and thoughts:

“Most things will be okay eventually, but not everything will be. Sometimes you'll put up a good fight and lose. Sometimes you'll hold on really hard and realize there is no choice but to let go. Acceptance is a small, quiet room.”

“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. 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.”

“Whatever happens to you belongs to you. Make it yours. Feed it to yourself even if it feels impossible to swallow. Let it nurture you, because it will.”

Final Verdict: A beautiful contemplation on life and the personal calamities that happen to us all.  Not your typical advice or self-help book.

No comments:

Post a Comment