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New book gives advice on love and life from 'Dear Sugar'

By Cecily Markland

For the Deseret News

Published: Saturday, July 28 2012 3:00 p.m. MDT

"TINY BEAUTIFUL THINGS: Advice on Love and Life From Dear Sugar," by Cheryl Strayed, Vintage Books, $14.95, 353 pages (nf)

“Dear Abby” she’s not. Known until recently only as “Sugar,” the advice columnist at an online community called the Rumpus, takes several steps beyond simply providing guidance on the rules of etiquette and social faux pas. Instead, she gets to the real “nitty-gritty” of life — and heavy on the gritty, it seems.

Sugar’s own unique brand of frank but heartfelt advice has garnered an ever-growing online fan base, and now, selected Dear Sugar columns have been compiled into a new, 353-page book titled “Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Live from Dear Sugar.”

The book discloses her identity and also reveals the author’s attitudes and suggestions about a wide range of topics.

A self-proclaimed liberal, who doesn’t believe in God, “Sugar” is Cheryl Strayed, the New York Times best-selling author of the memoir “Wild,” which was chosen as one of the first selections for Oprah Winfrey’s Book Club 2.0.

In the introduction to “Tiny Beautiful Things,” Strayed explains, “The book is a collection of intimate exchanges between strangers. … Some are about romance and love, others are about grief and loss, and others still about money or family troubles.”

In pages-long responses, Strayed is direct and straightforward. She demonstrates compassion and understanding, while encouraging readers to focus on solutions.

Her direct, raw advice is well-written and insightful, peppered with compassion and highlighted with details of her own human experience.

She writes about forgiveness, about making choices and about romance in a personal, probing, yet understanding, way. Some readers will balk at her profane language, and her references to sexual relations, homosexuality and abuse. Others will resonate with the situations she presents and will find comfort and direction as they respond to phrases like “The only way out of a hole is to climb out” and “Trusting yourself means living out what you already know to be true.”

“I’m not so much telling people what to do in my columns as I am attempting to either present a perspective that might be difficult for those who write to me to see on their own or to complexly hash out the either/or options that the letter writer has posed,” Strayed writes.

If you go ...

What: Cheryl Strayed book signing

When: Tuesday, July 31, 7 p.m.

Where: The King's English, 1511 S. 1500 East, Salt Lake City

Web: kingsenglish.com

Cecily Markland is a freelance writer, book editor, publicist and author of "Hope: One Mile Ahead" and the children’s book "If I Made a Bug." She owns Inglestone Publishing and produces a calendar of LDS events in Arizona (cecilymarkland.com).

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