I would have read this book even if it wasn’t for my book club. I’m a huge sucker for memoirs and Wild had rave reviews. Needless to say, I devoured this book. I started it Monday night and finished it Friday night. Go me!
This book fulfilled ‘California’ for my Where Are You Reading? Challenge.
With the death of her mother and the desolation of her marriage, Cheryl Strayed was at the end of a very short rope. She was lost and bordering on penniless and homeless. There’s no better time to pack up everything and take three months to hike the Pacific Crest Trail. Strayed starts her journey in the Mojave Desert and along the long walk to Oregon finds friends, rattlesnakes, peace, and herself among blisters, extreme temperatures, and the California wilderness.
I had a very up and down relationship with this book. At first, Strayed’s commentary of the reasons she went on the trail frustrated me. I felt like I couldn’t relate to her grief and her struggles with drug addiction and it made me doubt reading the book altogether. I kept going for Strayed’s fast paced writing and incredible journey. The more Strayed went over her past, the more I could sympathize with her and understand why she took the risks she did to hike the trail. I have a lot of respect for what she did and I have to be honest when I say it made me want to go backpacking! I would have given this book 5 out of 5 stars if I hadn’t been so annoyed with Strayed for the first half of the novel.
I like the idea of going out to the wilderness to be alone and find one’s self and I’m in such awe that Strayed did this with so little fear. She had almost no idea what she would come into contact with and she didn’t let her inexperience bring her down for much of the trip. She learned quickly and was very resourceful. There is a video on the Goodreads page in which Strayed says that her time on the trail helped her shape who she is today and I feel that this is only partially true. I think who she was before is what motivated her to go onto the trail and thus responsible for the outcome on the other end of over a thousand miles of hiking. I’m very happy for her and what she’s become.
Strayed says a few times that she was too young to be married to her first husband. This got under my skin, as someone who was married at 22. Granted, that’s a full three years later than Strayed was married, but I started dating my husband at 19 and would have married him then. In the same video mentioned above, she says she was to young to be married and deal with the grief she had in the wake of her mother’s death. I wish she would have clarified this in the book because I found her comments almost offensive.
I think the idea of ‘finding oneself’ is something many people are interested in. To me, this explains the popularity of this book, along with other similar titles such as Eat, Pray, Love. Can someone find himself in a journey as these books imply? I’m not sure it’s ever so obvious. When I was in college, I did a semester in England. I would never describe it as ‘life-changing’ or ‘eye-opening,’ but it helped me realize my strength as an individual and my ability to do things on my own. Maybe I could write a best-selling memoir. I’m not sure what element is necessary for a trip to change an individual like Strayed felt hers did. Reader, what do you think makes an experience life-changing?
I think it’s odd that two life-changing-journey memoirs were best sellers around the same time. I feel that when a genre becomes popular suddenly, it’s usually because there is a social issue that people find an escape from through books. For example, I read that dystopian futures are popular right now as a way to escape the bleak political situation in America. I can only speculate about the popularity of ‘finding yourself’ memoirs. Maybe it’s that we are all after our fifteen seconds of fame. If Cheryl Strayed can go on a three-month hike and find herself and write a book, then maybe I can get lost in the Northern Michigan wilderness and find myself and get a TV special. Or maybe it’s that we all feel so much pressure to be the best we can be; the multi-tasking family woman who works out five times a week and write award-winning stories. I can’t do it all and I need to find myself to be able to deal with my own disappointment. (I think I’m talking myself into wandering around the Northern Michigan forests.) Why do you think readers are interested in finding themselves in today’s society?
Writers’ Takeaway: This book was very hard to put down. I loved how Strayed started with a snippet of a turning point on the trail because I read trying to find out how far into her journey that event happened. By the team I reached it, I was engrossed. I read this book in less than a week and it was in large chunks. Sometimes I find I have to read a book in small doses, but that was not the case with Wild. Strayed’s strategy of jumping between flashback and time on the trail was really great and I liked that she spent more time following the trail than flashing back.
Overall, solid read and I would recommend it. Four out of Five stars.
Until next time, write on.
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