This past weekend I finished reading Wild by Cheryl Strayed. This story has gotten a lot of attention lately with the release of the film version starring Reese Witherspoon. While I was tempted to go see the movie, I knew that I needed to do the book justice by reading it beforehand, so I added it next in my queue and flew threw it!
Cheryl Strayed wrote this book as an account of her 1995 hike on the Pacific Coast Trail (PCT). She hiked for three months and 1,100 miles completely alone, a recent divorcee and “orphan” after her mother passed away from cancer four years earlier. The PCT is known as a less-touristy version of The Appalachian Trail, so needless to say, the risks involved in hiking it were high; to do so alone as a 26-year-old woman was unheard of. Strayed’s story, while not devoid of dangers on the trail, portrays how it was precisely the solitude and survival skills needed that led to her healing over the course of those few months.
Wild begins with her preparing for and hiking on the trail, but Strayed weaves in her background and life story throughout the novel. It is a conglomeration of memories and new experiences and an exploration of the ways that each influence the other. While this is a non-fiction book, it was such an adventurous story that it read like a fiction novel. It was inspiring to realize that this really happened, and to a woman not much older than me, no less.
I most enjoyed her portrayals of the trail; I felt like I got to enjoy the outdoors even in the dead of winter simply by falling into her story. She also completely opened up about the ugly parts just as much as the beautiful, and I think the ability to be that vulnerable as a writer is a challenge that would be hard for many to overcome enough to do the story justice. It was a courageous journey and it seems that it paid off for Strayed, who, by the end, appeared to have untangled some of the knots that were balled up inside of her for many years of her life.
I look forward to seeing the film at some point, though it will be interesting to see how they adjust to telling a story that resides in Cheryl’s own head most of the time in the book. Regardless, I know that it is a story that deserves to be told, so I am glad it is getting the attention that it is! This was a book that really held my attention and I am glad I had the chance to read it.
Rating: 3.5/5 stars
Stats: 311 pages
Recommended for: Anyone who is looking for the adventure of a lifetime in the pages of a book. Or anyone who is considering a long-term hike. I think she gives a raw account of it that, while not acutely detailed in terms of technical information, would give you a better idea about what to expect on that sort of journey.
Up Next: Not sure… Anna Karenina is on my nightstand, but I may have to work my way up to that one with a few other reads before I get to it!