Book Review: Wild By Cheryl Strayed

WILD
From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail

By:  Cheryl Strayed

Published:  March 20, 2012

Wild is a memoir that tells how Cheryl Strayed tried to overcome first her mother’s death and the distancing of her siblings, and then her divorce.  By chance she spies a book on hiking the Pacific Crest Trail.  After some thought, she decides to hike the trail, with no previous hiking experience ever.  The trail extends from California all the way to Washington State and without even a shred of an idea of what she was undertaking she starts off with “Monster” her pack, so heavy she can’t put it on without sitting down with support, and begins an adventure to find herself and heal the wounds that were so severely marked on her soul.


I had heard and seen much about this book, but never thought that it would be my type of book.  Even though I am very fond of memoirs, I was a bit afraid that this would be like the book, EAT PRAY LOVE.  But, the more I saw and read about the book, the more interested I became.  This was our book club choice for this month and I am so glad I had the opportunity to read it.

The beginning of the book was a little slow for me as she recounted her childhood and struggles with poverty and with her siblings.  Since I am familiar with the Minnesota Northwoods, I did enjoy her descriptions of growing up there and their simple lifestyle.  The cycle of drugs/sex/more drugs got old fast and her poor me attitude was frustrating.  She wasn’t the first to lose her mother and get divorced and the world didn’t stop because of it. The Pacific Crest Trail was just what she needed.

Once Cheryl begins the Pacific Crest Trail, the more interested I became in the story.  I was rooting for her every step of the way.  As she lost each toe nail…I cringed.  I was prodding her along even when the normal person would have given up, like when she was using duct tape to keep her sandals together and getting by with just twenty cents until her next stop.  While she walked through the groceries stores dreaming of drinking a Snapple Lemonade or eating a bag of chips it reminded me of all that we all take for granted and how easy it is to get whatever we want.  If I’m hungry for pizza I order it, if I want chocolate, I go to the cupboard and grab a candy bar.  Her boxes of goodies waiting at the next checkpoint became her lifeline and reason for moving forward.

As she finished the trail, I wept and cheered at the same time.  I was disappointed because she skips right ahead to the present.  I would have liked to known more about her recovery from the trail, including how her body healed, how it was to be sleeping in bed again, eating the food she dreamed about, and mostly being in the city where it is loud and busy.

I was hoping for a few photos inserted in the book along the way.  She carried her camera along for the whole trip and I would have loved to see documentation of the hike and the scenery.

Ultimately, we follow along as Cheryl intimately lets us in on her feelings and we witness her letting go of her anger and allowing herself to forgive.  Being willing to forgive and let go can really be the ultimate healer, but a life changing one thousand plus mile trek across the wilderness can do the trick as well.  Watching her process her mother’s death, her loss of contact with her family, her divorce and her loss of herself will lead you to take note of your own failings in life and maybe even come to grips with some of them.  I’m thrilled she was able to share her journey with us.

Cheryl Strayed

Cheryl Strayed is the author of the critically acclaimed novel TORCH.  She has had stories and essays published in numerous magazines.  She is also the author of TINY BEAUTIFUL THINGS: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar. She lives in Portland, Oregon.  For more, visit Cheryl Strayed at http://www.cherylstrayed.com/.  Follow her on Twitter, HERE and “Like” her on Facebook, HERE.

Cheryl offers her thoughts on the book and shares photos that I wish had been in the book, check out this YouTube video:

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