Friday, December 19, 2014

"Let yourself be gutted. Let it open you. Start here.”

Advice columns can be fun to read. They can also be vapid and seem inconsequential. When I picked up the book Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on love and life from Dear Sugar, which are compiled letters from The Rumpus, an online magazine’s advice column, I thought ‘well I’ll just read an entry or two and then turn it back in’. Little did I know that Sugar, the pen name for author Cheryl Strayed who wrote the responses to readers’ letters, would be so heartbreaking, honest, inspiring, and lovely that I wouldn’t be able to put the book down, reading several columns aloud to friends and over again to myself.

What I was taken aback by, and what was addressed in the book in between chapters, was how well each letter to Sugar was written. The letters sound very well thought out, beautifully penned, and each individual voice rang clear. The letters asked Sugar for advice on all sorts of issues like love, marriage, family, financial problems, forgiveness, etc.
Perhaps my favorite letter was about a young man who is currently in college, homosexual and living with parents he is dependent on, but who look at his sexuality as a sin. He lives under their roof and has been sent to a camp to “heal” his homosexuality. In his parents’ house he must keep his true self a secret and even at that his parents don’t trust him. His double life has him confused and financially unable to abandon a family that, although painful to deal with, is still his family. He asks Sugar for advice on how to proceed.

In many of the letters, I’d think ‘Oh man, how’s Sugar going to deal with this tough one?’, and then she would say the most candid, beautiful response. For example, in her response to the above letter she says, “love based on conditions such as those set forth by your parents is ugly, skimpy, diseased love. Yes, diseased. And it’s a kind of love that will kill you if you let it, sweet pea.” She goes on to tell this young man to get out of this toxic living environment no matter what it takes. The sincerity and care, yet slap-you-in-the-face honesty that Sugar uses throughout her responses is refreshing and sometimes hard to read, but this is not a woman who minces words when trying to get to the root of her reader’s problem.
Books that are typically in the self-help/advice section are not normally something I pick up, but damn it if this one didn’t knock me on my butt and make me analyze myself and the world around me.

Pick this book up. Read one chapter. Read a handful. Read them all. There’s a little something there for all our aching souls.   

~Kristin M.

No comments:

Post a Comment