I’ve been hosting my ‘little blog that could’ as Book Club Babe since July 2011, and although I’ve reached quite a few milestones and gained some fantastic followers who share my love for all things literary, I’m always overjoyed to use my blog in new ways and share it with contributors. Blogging is an awesome vehicle for collaboration and insightful discussion, and I would be remiss if I didn’t enthusiastically participate!
Thus, I’m pleased to announce my first guest book review! Claire is a talented writer whom I met in the Classical Studies program at the University of California, Santa Cruz. This week she passed her comprehensive exam with flying colors and received highest honors in the major! I’m positive that after she graduates, we’ll be seeing more great things from her! And don’t forget to check out her own blog: http://clairemariedavidson.wordpress.com/
Please give Claire a warm Book Club Babe welcome and share your opinions of her review! I hope that you also feel inspired to submit your own!
Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed (2012)
Review by Claire Marie Davidson
Rating: 5 out of 5
Cheryl Strayed’s Tiny Beautiful Things, an anthology of pieces from her popular advice column on The Rumpus, Dear Sugar, is so much more than an advice column. In place of reductive suggestions, Strayed offers expansive meditations, multi-layered stories, and humor, all with a spirit of “radical empathy,” as Steve Almond puts it. She doesn’t distance herself from pain; instead, she embraces it entirely in her work, exploring loss through her responses. In this way, she problematizes the conventional question-answer format of advice columns, turning the reader’s attention instead to the process of a person’s “becoming.”
By connecting the letters to her own life experiences, Strayed localizes and familiarizes pain, wrestling with it on the pages and uniting herself with both the reader and the letter-writer. In one letter, a father whose only son was killed by a drunk driver writes to her in a list format, which starts, “1. It’s taken me many weeks to compose this letter and even still, I can’t do it right. The only way I can get it out is to make a list instead of write a letter.” His letter ends with the question, “22. How do I become human again?” Strayed responds in a numbered list, which begins:
1. I don’t know how you go on without your son. I only know that you do. And you have. And you will.
2. Your shattering sorrowlight of a letter is proof of that.
3. You don’t need me to tell you how to become human again. You are there, in all of your humanity, shining unimpeachably before every person reading these words right now.
Strayed’s response transcends advice– it offers an intimate, emotional reaction. She suffers with the dad. She acknowledges how infinite the dad’s sense of loss is and, at the same time, delves into the multi-faceted, form-evading reality of humanity and mortality, memorializing his lost son through her words. Her poetic response offers both precision and complexity. This is the magic of Strayed’s writing: through her journey of loss, she creates something beautiful.
Claire Marie Davidson is a student at UC Santa Cruz, where she is pursuing her B.A. in Classical Studies and Creative Writing. She loves to read, write, and run. You can check out her blog at http://clairemariedavidson.wordpress.com.
She is super excited to be a guest blogger for Book Club Babe!