by Erin Rose
Let me start by saying this book is actually called, Tiny Beautiful Things, advice on love and life from Dear Sugar. But I didn’t even realize it until I went to write this, because I have always simply called it Dear Sugar, and I am going to continue to do exactly that here. So, I found Dear Sugar, or I suppose it’s more apt to say Dear Sugar found me, last spring in a bookstore in the small town I live in right now. A friend who, knowing I love Cheryl Strayed, thrust it upon me and insisted that it would truly be one of the best reads of my life. She and her mother had read it, both carrying it around with them in their purses for weeks. She said it was the kind of book you’ll be pulling out to loan to people or rereading yourself in the years to come. I love anyone who is passionate about reading, and I could tell she meant every word. Have I mentioned yet how much I love Cheryl Strayed?
Cheryl Strayed is in my eyes one of the baddest bitches ever. Her essays have appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Best American, Tin House– her writing seems to know no bounds. And not only did she hike 1,100 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail alone, but she lived to tell the tale and then also wrote an incredible memoir about it, WILD. WILD is a #1 New York Times best selling memoir and was chosen for Oprah’s book club. It has also recently been released as major motion picture staring Reese Witherspoon. As a writer and a human, I say that’s a win- win.
But this isn’t about WILD (though if you haven’t read it please run, not walk, to your nearest bookstore and get a copy.) This is about Dear Sugar. Like I said I fell in love with Cheryl while reading WILD in a nonfiction class last spring. I then also had the chance to see her read here in Boise Idaho at the Egyptian Theatre, and I laughed and I cried and I was generally just in awe of her. It was here she talked a lot about Dear Sugar, and this was before the friend of mine thrust it upon me in the tiny bookstore. She called Sugar a part of her, and one of the most important things she has ever done.
Dear Sugar started as an advice column for The Rumpus, a then small but still reputable literary site, and a now a massive and insanely successful one. Someone else spearheaded the column writing under an alias, and when that person left, they blindly reached out to Cheryl. She had written them a fan letter expressing how much she enjoyed the column. They were delighted when she decided to take over and for years, Cheryl Strayed, wrote anonymous replies to people desperately in need of some advice.
Dear Sugar the book is a compilation of the best moments from the column, her favourite letters and responses all wrapped up into wonderful sections that touch on every facet of life. I guarantee you will find something in these pages that speaks directly to you. Sugar completely blows the lid off what we would imagine an advice column to be. Her responses are truthful, painful, filled with personal and relatable anecdotes, and they are written damn well. It is truly something else.
While reading Dear Sugar I had to put myself on a reading diet. I wanted to consume the entire thing, but it was so delicious, but I also wanted to savour it. I kept the book next to my bed, dragging it out for weeks. I would only read it when I woke up in the morning. Many times when I would have normally just gone back to sleep I found myself rolling over and reaching for the bedside table. It is the kind of book that you will want to read in an elevator, if only to get a moment alone with her. My friend was right, one of the best reads of my life.
Erin Rose is a writer who loves black cats, country music and a well made manhattan. She resides across the seas, currently landlocked in Boise, Idaho where she is working toward her MFA in Fiction at Boise State University. Erin is a journalist, blogger, lyricist, and most recently a humbled short story writer. She aspires to visit every continent, fall in love, publish a novel, attend the running of the bulls, learn how to make a well made manhattan, and graduate. You can follow all her words and adventures at roseblacque.com.