Book Review: Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail
Publisher: Knopf 2012
Source: Public Library
My Rating: A+
My eldest daughter recommended this book to me sometime last year. Candice was very enthusiastic about it, so I went to our library’s website and requested it. I was number 335!! Wow – I figured lots of people must be as enthusiastic as my daughter!! A month later I noticed the library had three copies of the book in audio. Even so, I was still somewhere in the 100s.
The fact that this was an Oprah Book Club pick had something to do with all the requests, I’m sure. I’ve since read lots of opinions about the book and the author, Cheryl Strayed. It seems readers either really like her or really don’t. Not too many in-betweens. Now that I’ve become acquainted with Ms. Strayed I can put myself in the column for really like.
In case you haven’t heard of the book, let me tell you a bit about it. Wild is a memoir of Cheryl Strayed’s experience hiking the Pacific Crest Trail through Calfornia and Oregon. She was a pretty mixed up young woman in her mid-twenties who felt she needed the four-month experience to help her sort out her life.
Her mother’s death and the disintegration of her family hit her hard. Although married, she became promiscuous and then experimented with heroin for a few months. She’s a very intelligent woman and she knew what she was doing was wrong but, she didn’t seem to know how to stop herself. Cheryl reasoned that a hike in the back-country, by herself, and with only the things she could carry, would help her decide what was important in life for her.
Cheryl Strayed was painfully honest in this memoir. I hurt for her in more than one way. I’ve done my share of backpacking so I could physically identify with her feet that were sore and bloody because of boots that were too small for her. I hurt in my shoulders as she described her “monster” backpack filled to overflowing with three times as much stuff as she needed. “Needed” is controverrsial. What reader doesn’t want to take all their favorite books along on a four month hike?
I also understood and shared Ms. Strayed’s emotional heartaches. Her childhood was not ideal but her mother had been her rock. When she suddenly died, Cheryl lost her rudder. The hike gave her the opportunity to put all of that in perspective.
The Pacific Crest Trail is considered a real challenge by experienced hikers. It’s not recommended for rookies like Cheryl Strayed. She was such a rookie she didn’t even break in her boots before the hike. But, the young woman really had grit. She was so determined to complete the trek.
If I’d been her mother I would have been very worried about her being alone for days out their in the back-country. Cheryl had a strategy for handling her fears. She said, “Fear is born of the story we tell ourselves.” I like that quote. It says a lot about her. She didn’t travel blindly; she had good instincts and common sense. I was amazed by the friendliness and helpfulness she encountered along the way. Most people in this world really are good.
One more thing I liked about Cheryl: She is a first class reader. In spite of the extra weight, she still carried a variety of books with her on the trip. I haven’t found a list yet, but I did copy down a couple of books that were particularly meaningful to her on the trip. I just got one of them today from the library. It’s Dreams Of a Common Language by Adrienne Rich. I’m going to take it camping with me this week. [Coincidentally, we will be camping in the back-country not too far from the Pacific Crest Trail.] I’ll let you know what I think of the book next week.
I’d like to recommend this book to all of you but, some of you may object to some of her f-word language and her promiscuous behavior. If you can overlook that, you’ll meet a talented writer and a genuinely nice person.