Leggy mentioned this book to me and told me I’d like it. I trust her recommendations so I joined the hold list at my library. I thought I had thoughts on Cheryl Strayed but I realized I might have been confusing her with Elizabeth Gilbert who wrote “Eat, Pray, Love. I watched the movie, Wild based on Strayed’s book of the same name, that chronicled her grief after losing her mother. I watched her talk about her grief on Super Soul Sunday with Oprah while bawling my eyes out. So I think that made me think I had an opinion on her but I have never read a book by her and never read the column this book was based on; so it was going in with a blank slate.
“Dear Sugar” is based on a collection of an online advice column on The Rumpus. For the longest time, the identity of the author was anonymous until it was revealed that “Sugar” was actually Cheryl Strayed. I think every experience in life was covered in this collection in the form a letter that was written in. Relationships, addiction, the realization that one is a shitty mom/friend, dealing with illness, abuse, sick fetishes, infidelity, grief, trying to leave a marriage, jealousy, boundaries, weight/body issues. I could go on and on, but almost – if not everything, was covered.
What makes this book work is that you can tell Cheryl has lived a full, full life. I say this because the format in which this was done was that Cheryl would respond and provide advice by telling a story from her life experience that was relatable to the issue at hand. So yes, she lived a very full life because she had a story for every topics. The other important thing is that she actually learned from her experiences. Because it is one thing to have experiences and it is another to learn from them and grow.
I did this book on audio and Cheryl herself narrated it. The first few chapters had me like “ehn, I hear you but nothing groundbreaking”. I think I was fully in by Part IV of the book. Another good thing is that Cheryl mastered the art of being honest and giving it straight without being rude or judgmental. I had to read this in sections because reading a help letter one after the other was a bit much, so I had to space it out. I also found it aggravating how she kept interspersing tears of endearments to those who write in. She’d call them names like “honeybun”, “sweet pea”. I get the joke (because her name was Sugar) but it irked me and got annoying real quick.
The last letter where someone asked what she would write to her 20 something year old self, might have been my favorite because it embodies everything I believe life should be about. Throughout the whole book, Strayed encourages people to not be afraid of life and to always choose happiness above all things and not let fear in. At some point she says “Courage is a vital piece of any well lived life”.
Overall, I don’t expect every letter to resonate with whoever is reading but just like life, I do think something can be learned from each letter. I think the book as a whole serves as a gateway to self reflection that every person should be having with themselves. It gives perspective and reminds you of how life can be awful and amazing at the same time. It’s a strong recommend for me.