Cheryl Strayed never fails to make me cry. I can barely get through one of her advice columns without tearing up, and as for her memoir Wild, about hiking the Pacific Crest Trail at 26 to deal with the death of her mother…well, let’s just say that after flying through it in two or three days, I felt completely emotionally exhausted. (In a good way.)
I’m not the only one—New York Times reviewer Dwight Garner admitted to weeping openly in a coffee shop while reading the last third of Wild. Not many have that gift, to offer unabashed sentiment in a mostly-sarcastic age, nor to to dig as close to the root of meaning as possible, even if it doesn’t always lead to a cut-and-dried answer. As the until-recently anonymous Rumpus advice columnist, Sugar, Cheryl has used these skills to amass a devoted following. She started the column two years ago with four letters in hand. She now has more than 7,000 inquiries in her inbox.