Find it at your library!

I have a problem with perfectionism. My problem is that until very recently I thought perfection was attainable. It turns out getting straight A’s year after year can give a person a false sense of herself. And that false sense crumbles under the pressure of real lived experience.

Tiny Beautiful Things was recommended to me a long time ago, but I was sure I’d never read it. Life advice from Cheryl Strayed? It didn’t make sense to me. I had read Wild. I knew the kind of life choices she’d made. Why would I want to take life advice from someone who had shot heroin in a motel room?

Fast forward a few years—I still haven’t shot heroin, but I’ve fucked up in other ways. I’ve done things I’m not proud of, that I cringe to recall. I have memories I try to bury down deep so I don’t have to look at them. When Tiny Beautiful Things crossed my radar again, my perspective had changed. Who better to give advice than someone who has made a crapload of mistakes? What’s the alternative, anyway—find someone who has always done things right? If such an anomaly even exists, what kind of advice would a person like that be able to give? “Oh, you know, just be more perfect, like me.” How is that useful? And more importantly, how did I spend so many years of my life being such a self-righteous idiot? (I’m still a self-righteous idiot sometimes. This I know, now.)

Tiny Beautiful Things was a cathartic reading experience for me. I started listening to it on my way home from work and cried so hard I thought maybe I should pull over because I couldn’t see. Life is hard. Harder for some people than others. But hard for everyone. People are messed up and make bad choices and shit goes wrong. But there is honor in owning our mess and working to make it better. Most of the advice in the book starts from that place.

This was the right book at the right time for me. I’m glad I got off my high horse.

Find it at your library!

Frankly, I’m surprised I had the patience for this book, because I am not lately a reader who appreciates slow-moving, thoughtful, atmospheric writing. Yet I was propelled toward the ending somehow, almost against my will. And when the quiet, reflective resolution came, I was strangely satisfied, even though part of me was hoping for a thunderclap of a finish. What sorcery is this?

The Wildling Sisters is a story of a summer heat wave that brought with it something weird and sinister, and how the twisted and tragic events of that summer reverberate into the future. It’s about two families living in the same estate in the English countryside half a century apart. It’s not, as I initially thought, a ghost story. There’s a creepy house, but it’s not haunted except by sad memories. And it’s only barely-kinda-maybe a murder mystery. Mostly, it’s about sisters and the bonds between them, which proves to be something that hasn’t changed much through the years.

So I guess you could say I grudgingly recommend this one. It won me over despite my typical preferences and expectations. Maybe the arrival of fall is making me contemplative. Maybe the book is just that good. The more I ponder it, the more I’m leaning towards the latter.

I should note that a sizeable portion of my enjoyment came from the quality of the audio version, fantastically read by two very distinct but equally talented narrators. It’s no trouble to keep track of alternating timelines when the narrators trade off; the voices signal to you which year you’re in. And of course, it goes without saying that British accents are dreamy AF.