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Always leary, am I, when non-clinicians start openly penning generalized advice (beyond dealing with biscuits that won't rise or resistant scuff marks) to people with problems that could be potentially serious or life-threatening--we don't need to look very far to see the inherent problems with such an approach. But after listening, I report that Miss Sugar is wise enough to always advise some medicine with her spoonful of sugar, and for the most part, in her essay-esque responses, directs her sweet peas toward professional counsel/support if needed. Miss Sugar is indeed wise, as well as compassionate and poetic. (*Strayed does have life-experience, obvious in her book Wild.)
This is an interesting mix -- author/advice columnist, novel/inspirational stories -- but just plugging it in and listening doesn't do it justice. In large doses the stream of advice-hidden-in-a-story becomes repetitive and more about the writer and creative writing than the problem. And with so many prose-filled personal stories, you begin to feel like this columnist not only yearns for the life of a novelist (funny thing), but also lived a life manufactured specifically for recalling and expending advice, which sometimes translates as too convenient, and unbelievable. [Imagine the hint-rich Heloise advising you.."I know mahogany can be problematic, and I'm sorry you have to deal with that hard and unfair fact, I also once owned a stubborn credenza... with a flowing perfect arc, move your cloud-like, lemon-scented cloth with the graceful grain of the wood on your credenza, becoming one with the oiled glistening panel of life recorded in those mahogany rings..." you get it.] But, Miss Sugar seems to pull up, just when you think she is going to drown the question in the reflective pool of her own life, and return to advising.
On the positive side, is the positive! Strayed is a good writer, and she uses those skills to be both entertaining and inspirational. Often in this book you will pick up some sparkling gems of wisdom. I was impressed with her good-karma emphasis on not only being a better person, but hoping for better for those around you, getting the whole team across the finish line. This would be a great book to pick up every day and read a passage, also a nice gift. Strayed does a good job narrating; I liked her voice work better here than on Wild. She still has that rock-hard edginess and no problem with dropping the F, or kicking pity-partiers off their asses--be prepared for some hard hitting--but nothing below the belt. Worthwhile listen; suggested enjoying in bits rather than one long session. (Another great pick up from this book...The Rumpus! A nice on-line magazine I intend on checking out more often, including the Miss Sugar column.)
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What did you love best about Tiny Beautiful Things?
As a long-time reader of the column, I loved hearing it spoken out loud, as I have heard it in my head while reading it. I loved the flow of each Q&A section and how as the book goes on, a cohesiveness comes through of the similarity of our human needs and desires.
What did you like best about this story?
The stories from Cheryl Strayed's life that she inserts in her responses that sometimes feel like they are completely out of left field, but eventually come full circle with clear intent. This is probably her best trait as an advice columnist that she can bring herself and her own experiences into the fold without overshadowing the original question or the asker's dilemma.
What about Cheryl Strayed and Steve Almond (intro) ’s performance did you like?
I did not particularly care for Steve Almond's performance, although I liked the intro itself. His delivery was drab and had a slightly cloying tone which did nothing for me. Strayed's performance is really quite good and the evenness of her tone produces a zen-like effect which allows one to become engrossed in each word. However, I wish she would have occasionally produced some variation in delivery depending on the dynamic of the question and the sentiment behind the answer. It got a bit "samey".
If you were to make a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?
You are human and you need to be loved, just like everyone else does.
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