Jack A. Urquhart’s Quickie Book Review: Tiny Beautiful Things, by Cheryl Strayed

©2012 by Jack A. Urquhart (320 words)

Screen Shot 2012-12-06 at 4.42.57 PMI received Cheryl Strayed’s engaging, and often moving, Tiny Beautiful Things as a gift—one that (I’ll admit) I took my time in opening.  That is because normally an entire book devoted to real-life advice column letters wouldn’t be at the top of my reading list.  However, somewhere in the first few pages of this exquisitely intelligent—and yes, graceful—volume, Strayed (aka “Dear Sugar,” at the online publication, “The Rumpus”) managed to upend my prejudice.

Indeed, there is nothing tiny, but much that is hugely beautiful in Strayed’s writing.  Her response letters feature some of the loveliest, heart-stopping prose I’ve read in ages.

Witness these passages from her reply to a grief-stricken father whose only child (a gay son) was killed by a drunk driver:

“The entire premise of your healing demands that you…come to understand and accept that your son will always be only the man he actually was:  the twenty-two-year-old who made it as far as that red light.  The one who loved you deeply.  The one who long ago forgave you for asking why he didn’t like girls.  The one who would want you to welcome his boyfriend’s new boyfriend into your life.  The one who would want you to find joy and peace.  The one who would want you to be the man he didn’t get to be. 

To be anything else dishonors him…

Your son was your greatest gift in his life and he is your greatest gift in his death too.  Receive it.  Let your dead boy be your most profound revelation.  Create something of him. 

Make it beautiful.”

To prescribe acceptance and perseverance as a moral imperative to a fellow human being suffering a seemingly unbearable grief would be a tall order for even the most eloquently empathic communicator, the most extraordinarily gifted writer, the wisest of human beings.  How fortunate for Strayed’s readers that she is all three.

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About jaurquhart

Jack Andrew Urquhart was born in the American South. Following undergraduate work at the University of Florida, Gainesville, he taught in Florida's public schools. He earned a Master of Arts degree in English, Creative Writing, from the University of Colorado at Boulder, where he was the winner of the Harcourt Brace Jovanovich Award for Fiction (1991). His work has appeared online at Clapboard House Literary Journal, Crazyhorse Literary Journal, and Standards: The International Journal of Multicultural Studies. He is the author of So They Say, a collection of self-contained, inter-connected stories and the short story, They Say You Can Stop Yourself Breathing. Formerly a writing instructor at the University of Colorado’s Writing Program, Mr. Urquhart was, until 2010, a senior analyst for the Judicial Branch of California. He resides in southern California.
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One Response to Jack A. Urquhart’s Quickie Book Review: Tiny Beautiful Things, by Cheryl Strayed

  1. marydpierce says:

    You should trust my instincts more – I knew you would love this book because the writing is divine. Much like yours, my dear.

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