Monday, September 3, 2012

Wild - Cheryl Strayed

Summary: A powerful, blazingly honest memoir: the story of an eleven-hundred-mile solo hike that broke down a young woman reeling from catastrophe -- and built her back up again.

At twenty-two Cheryl Strayed thought she had lost everything.  In the wake of her mother's death, her family scattered and her own marriage was soon destroyed.  Four years later, with nothing more to lose, she made the most impulsive decision of her life: to hike the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to Washington State -- and to do it alone.  She had no experience as a long distance hiker, and the trail was little more than "an idea, vague and outlandish and full of promise."  But it was a promise of piecing back together a life that had come undone.

Strayed faces down rattlesnakes and black bears, intense heat and record snowfalls, and both the beauty and loneliness of the trail.  Told with great suspense and style, sparkling with warmth and humor, Wild vividly captures the terrors and pleasures of one young woman forging ahead against all odds on a journey that maddened, strengthened, and ultimately healed her.  (Summary from book - Image from www.cherylstrayed.com ) 

*Disclaimer*  -  I finished this book in about a week -- then I had a baby, moved, life got crazy, and I forgot to write the review for...oh...a month or so.  This is really more of a mini-review based on my impressions and what I can remember about the book.  Take it with a grain of salt...whatever that means.

My Review:  I hate hiking.  In my family this makes me a virtual pariah.  My three brothers regularly run mountains for fun.  My father has hiked Table Rock (near the Grand Teton) over forty times.  My husband takes our daughters on a week long backpacking trip every year before school starts.  Me?  I hike vicariously.  That’s why I picked up Wild.

Wild follows twenty-something writer Cheryl Strayed’s attempt to solo hike the Pacific Crest Trail, a winding path of desert, ice, and rainforest that stretches from Mexico to the Canadian border.  However, her story really begins long before she sets foot on the trail – in the days and weeks that follow her mother’s diagnosis and sudden death from terminal cancer.  Cheryl’s overwhelming grief propels her into a shadowy world of depression, heroin addiction, and casual sex that ultimately signify the end of her marriage and the dissolution of other family relationships that send her careening towards rock bottom.  Lost and broken, Cheryl quits her job, finalizes her divorce, and sells nearly everything she owns in a slightly psychotic quest to find solace and healing on the Pacific Crest Trail. It is there, in “entirely new terrain,” that this completely unseasoned hiker confronts her own demons, meets a variety of interesting characters, lives on pennies, and occasionally ends up shoeless or covered in frogs.  Yikes.  And EW.

While I enjoyed the opportunity to hike vicariously with Cheryl and experience life on the PCT, I don’t know that I would recommend this book to every reader. Our life experiences were so different, that I didn’t relate as well with Cheryl as I would have liked.  Some of her choices following her mother’s death, though she was entirely entitled to make them,  were so far from those that I at least think I might have made, I had difficulty connecting with her story.  Despite this lack of attachment, I admired Cheryl’s gutsy decisions to hike the PCT and embark on an adventure I know I’d never be woman enough to make. 

My Rating: 3.5 Stars

For the sensitive reader:  Lots of profanity, some sexual situations and discussion of sexual matters, controversial drug use, and casual reference to an abortion (which reaaaallly bothered me).

Summary:  One woman’s remarkable experience as she struggles to overcome grief, loneliness, and addiction on the Pacific Crest Trail.

2 comments:

Melissa Mc (Gerbera Daisy Diaries) said...

On my shelf. Pre-Oprah, I might add. Will get to it one day.

MindySue said...

I must've missed the Oprah thing. I just thought it looked interesting.

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