Think Cheryl Strayed, and what are the first words that come to mind? Courage and self-reliance for sure. But kindness? Overflowing. And we had an overflow house in East Hampton on Saturday as the bestselling author of Wild (Random House) and the riveting new paperback, Tiny Beautiful Things (Vintage) took us on a new kind of journey.
Hailed by Oprah and The New York Times, Wild is a one-woman-against-the-world tale that combines derring-do with daring-to-look as the heroine, Strayed, takes a long look at the wrong paths before finding her way out into the rest of her life. The sections she read were powerful, and the audience reacted with laughter that signaled self-recognition and then wild applause. Kindness? Yes. Wild tells us that if Cheryl (Strayed's the name she gave herself) could get back on the path — away from drugs, hike the Pacific Coast, navigate Alaska, and return home to a loving relationship and two glorious children — then perhaps we might find the same courage in our lives. Tiny Beautiful Things tells us how, and that's where kindness is overflowing.
Strayed, writing as Internet columnist Dear Sugar, has put together a book of answers to life's many layers of questions. Her answers bring us the best of self-help — the sort of pull-yourself-together and you-can-do-it advice that everyone seeks. Writing mostly to a young (please, Internet not newspaper!) audience, Dear Sugar speaks with the comforting voice of an older sister.
She read a letter from a correspondent who asked how one might survive a break-up in this day of constant social network information (Twitter, Facebook... if you have to ask, keep reading).
And here's where kindness kicked in: Strayed as Sugar doesn't belittle the writer, nor does she (Dr. Phil and others take note) blame the victim; instead she says that we have all — Sugar, too — been there. Back in the day (five years ago was it?) telephones were the instrument of emotional torture. That link to the other, Sugar says, suddenly became the extension of heartbreak as the beloved would no longer call and we would wait for the phone to ring! Who hasn't been there (people under 25, this is how it was!). You would wait and wait and then with eyes puffy with tears, you'd try one cool and collected call, all to no avail. He/she, the beloved, would only say once more that you were 'through."
So what is it about Tiny Beautiful Things (and the phrase is from a reply that is so touching that I won't touch it here)? Cheryl Strayed has been through a lot, she's put herself through more, and she's not afraid to speak from her heart to you. “Dear Reader: Take courage,” she says. She has enough to share, and she does.
Wild (26.95) and Tiny Beautiful Things (14.95) are available in our stores and at BookHampton.com. Order both and give one to your best friend —she'll thank you, and we’ll thank you with 15% off.
I'd like to hear your thoughts about both of these books — please leave a comment below, and we’ll start a conversation.
— Charline Spektor