My second book read for the Bout of Books 7.0 read-a-thon last week was Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed. Wild was a very hyped up book last year (Oprah’s Book Club) and also got some mixed reviews. But my curiosity never let up and I’m ultimately glad I waited for the hype to die down before reading it. I wanted to hear Strayed speak in person at a Rainy Day Books engagement here in Kansas City, but it was on a night I had rehearsal, so I pre-ordered an autographed copy instead.
Wild is Strayed memoir of a dark time in her life and how she chose to find solace and recover. In her early twenties, Strayed felt her life coming apart at the seams. Her mother had just died from cancer, and her young marriage was falling apart. After spending the next four years in a haze of drugs and promiscuity, Strayed decided it was time to reclaim her life—settling on the impulsive idea to solo-hike the Pacific Crest Trail.
I liked Wild! I know I’m not the first to compare it to Eat Pray Love and A Walk in the Woods, but I liked it better then both of those (but not quite as much as Into the Wild). I believe I read Eat Pray Love and Into the Wild around 2007–08, when I was in my mid-twenties and finishing my master’s degree. I had never faced emotional or existential crises (still haven’t), so I couldn’t identify personally with these stories. I remember being super annoyed with Eat Pray Love, though—the vibe of the book was too whiney and narcissistic for me. But Wild was everything I wanted that Eat Pray Love didn’t deliver.
I admire Strayed for making an effort to get her life in order. Some people need to do something huge and extreme to kick their asses into gear, which looks like it worked for Strayed. Everyone mourns loss differently. I found her writing to be relatable and not overly romantic—she acknowledges that she messed up a lot of things in her life (whether deliberately or inadvertently), and openly recognizes her foolishness. I am not a hiker, but I was shocked by her complete lack of preparation for this months-long intensive journey traversing the PCT! (Again, to her credit she fully admits to being unprepared.) The sorry state of her feet throughout the hike… omg!
Wild might have been just a touch on the long side, but Strayed has been through a lot, and the scope of her odyssey (both physically and internally) were pretty epic. She was extremely fortunate to make it through (relatively) unscathed. Many of the people she met along the way and their generosities were heartwarming. This was a great memoir about heartbreak, mistakes, recovery, redemption, and family.
Read from May 14 to 17, 2013.