Hulu's "Tiny Beautiful Things" Turns Cheryl Strayed's Advice Columns Into Fiction

Hulu's "Tiny Beautiful Things," which premiered April 7 on the streamer, follows Kathryn Hahn as Clare, a struggling middle-aged woman who reconnects with her love of writing as her marriage and family fall apart. The new series, which also features "The Wilds"'s Sarah Pidgeon as the younger version of Clare, Quentin Plair as her husband Danny, and Tanzyn Crawford as her daughter Rae, is based on the book of advice columns by Cheryl Strayed. Back in the 2010s, Strayed anonymously wrote the "Dear Sugar" advice column for the website The Rumpus, doling out wisdom that was eventually collected in the book "Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar." And while Strayed sought to help those who chose to write in, she also pulled from the story of her own life. In the show, Clare becomes Sugar, trying to help others while her life is also falling apart.

So is the "Tiny Beautiful Things" show a true story? Yes and no. Hahn's Clare is not quite Strayed. She has one teenage daughter; Strayed has two kids, a daughter and a son. And while Strayed has had periods of her life where she's felt at odds and ends, she's never gone through the situation Clare does, where her husband kicks her out and she's put on leave from her job at a nursing home. In the show, Clare has mostly given up on writing, while Strayed had already published a novel in 2006 and was still plugging away at writing when she took over the "Dear Sugar" mantle.

And yet, Clare and the real Strayed have similar back stories. In the show, Clare's mom Frankie (Merritt Wever) dies when Clare is in her early 20s, and she spirals while trying to deal with her grief. Strayed's real mom, Bobbi, died when she was 23, and processing her grief has become a lifelong journey for her. Strayed named her daughter after her mom, and Clare does the same thing.

The other thing the show doesn't really change? Sugar's columns. Clare becomes the writer of the columns on the show, reading sections of them aloud, and the series includes some of Sugar's real life greatest hits. You can still read most of those columns on The Rumpus now, including the advice to the person who wrote in "WTF, WTF, WTF?", her response to the person who wrote in about her boyfriend wearing her underwear, and her letter to the person who asked for advice for a twenty-something. Hahn reads some of these responses verbatim in the series.

If you want a look at Strayed's life that's even more based in the facts of her past, there's always 2014's movie "Wild," which was based on her memoir of the same name. Reese Witherspoon stars as Cheryl in the film.