I picked up "Tiny Beautiful Things" after having recently read Cheryl Strayed's memoir, Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail. Even though I've read advice columns throughout my life, beginning with Ann Landers and Dear Abby as a kid, I was not sure how a book of collected advice queries and replies could be very interesting or compelling, but I loved Strayed's writing in "Wild," and so I gave this a shot.
She writes to a woman who miscarried her baby; to a woman who discovered her boyfriend dressed in her underwear; to a gay teenage boy whose parents are on the verge of disowning him. She corresponds with a woman whose young daughter faced a life-threatening brain tumor about the existence of God. To a young man who writes of his belief that he will never experience romantic love due to his lifelong physical disfigurement, Strayed responds with both compassion and toughness; "How do you know that? Have you made overtures an been rebuffed or are you projecting your own fears and insecurities onto others?"
Strayed often ties in her own life experiences in her replies, some seemingly small, like her attempt to rescue a dying baby bird when she was a young girl, to life-altering, as with the death of her mother. Readers of "Wild" already know how profoundly impacted Strayed was by the death of her mother decades earlier, and her continuing loss is apparent in this collection. No matter what the topic, Strayed writes with heart-breaking honesty, and her concern for the strangers who bare their souls in their letters is continually evident.