Tag Archives: Wild

‘Wild’ Movie Review

18 May
Movie Poser via IMDb

Movie Poser via IMDb

It’s been almost a year since I read Cheryl Strayed’s Wild and had a great discussion with my book club about the book. I’d been waiting for a copy of the movie to be available at the library and finally had to Redbox this awesome movie so I could see it for myself. I was happy with the film.

Things I Thought Were Awesome

Reese Witherspoon. She did an amazing job. This is one of those movies where the lead gets a lot of face time, much like Tom Hanks in Castaway. I heard that she was fighting for this project to take off and she is credited as Producer. Strayed was involved in producing as well and helped write the script. I think this was set up for a win.

Hiking advice. Reading this book taught me a few valuable lessons about hiking and I’m glad those were kept in. A lot of them were taken out, but a few key items were left in. This isn’t the exciting, glitzy type of thing that moviegoers tend to want to see so I was happy to see it was left in.

Trusting in humanity. The film did a great job at showing how vulnerable Cheryl was and how much she had to trust in those she met and hope they would have her best interest in mind. She did a good job of quickly finding out who was worth trusting and who to avoid and I thought this came across well on-screen.

Changes That Didn’t Really Bother Me

REI problems. In the book, Cheryl had a lot of problems re-ordering her boots and having them available for her at a station. The movie skipped this and I’m really fine with that. I don’t think it added to her overall struggles and seemed a bit repetitive in the book.

Things That Were Taken Out and I’m Still Wondering Why

Heroine use up until she left. Cheryl talked about how soon before her hike she’d used heroine in the book and for me, that helped place the hike right in the middle of her struggles, not a task she undertook to re-set herself after getting over her dark period. It was her own rehab.

Things That Changed Too Much

Financial problems. The movie touched on her financial struggles in small ways. Saying she didn’t have anywhere to live after the hike to the Hobo Times reporter, declining her favorite Snapple at stations, etc. But the book focused on how little money she had to her name. She dropped a dime in the snow and lost half of her wealth. Where was that in the movie?

Explicit Content. I get that it sells movie tickets, but for a movie about a woman walking alone on the PCT, there was a lot of explicit content. Yes, a good amount of it was in the book, but the flashbacks and images of her racy behavior were a bit much for me. I wasn’t ready for it and I think it was too much.

Overall Reactions

I liked the movie but didn’t love it. It was a good rendition of the book and was entertaining. I’d recommend it but not enthusiastically. I guess it was solidly OK.

To those who have read this more recently, what did I miss? Anything you would add to my lists?

Until next time, write on.

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Book Club Reflection: Wild by Cheryl Strayed

4 Mar

I had highly anticipated our group discussion of Wild by Cheryl Strayed. If you recall, I wrote a highly enthusiastic review of it really shortly after we were assigned the book. I’ve been giddy for the group meeting ever since!

Mostly everyone in our group enjoyed the book. Strayed did a wonderful job at melding her back story and her adventure on the hike together so that the flashbacks never seemed sudden or out-of-place. A lot of us enjoyed how she started the book with the scene in which she loses her shoe over the side of a cliff because it gave us a lot of tension. As we followed her on the start of her journey, we were already weary of a conflict she was going to face down the road.

Despite this, we didn’t find Strayed very likeable as a person. We wanted to empathize with her, but she was in such a unique situation that none of us could relate to her. I personally found I understood her better by the end. One thing that bothered us was that her decisions seemed so reckless, especially the way she would spend the little money she had on the trail. Using $18 of $20 to buy dinner at one stop? That seems a bit over the top.

There were more than a few things she did that seemed foolish to us. The most obvious is the amount of stuff she carried. When Albert went through her pack, there was so much that seemed obviously unnecessary and as she hiked, the things she didn’t have became very apparent. Though she got a lot of advice from the guys are REI, she really should have done some more research about the conditions she would be hiking in and the terrain she would cover. Those seemed to be her weaknesses. Though she admits she should have practiced with the weight, we still faulted her for not listening to the most basic advice. Not breaking in her shoes? Rookie traveler mistake; I wouldn’t go on a weekend trip with shoes I hadn’t broken in, yet alone a three-month trek the width of the US.

One thing we thought she should have brought and didn’t was something more to protect herself. Besides the loud whistle, she didn’t have much and I think it became obvious when the day-hiker seemed sexually aggressive toward her. Someone from our group suggested that mace or pepper spray could have been a good idea.

Someone volunteered that the only thing she did seem prepared for was to find a hook-up on the trail. Strayed had brought a roll of condoms with her for the hike. Having commented that the PCT is one of the lesser-hiked trails in the US, this seemed a strange thing to pack. I don’t think she even met enough men to use one for each. But then when she did actually need one, she was too embarrassed of her scabs to even consider using it. What an irony that is.

Her time with Jonathan the Bartender was probably not the highlight of her life, but it was something that Strayed didn’t try to hide. She doesn’t seem at all embarrassed by the casual sex that she admits to having. There’s really not anything about her time on the trail she seems embarrassed about. We wondered if she’s really proud of the things she did; if this book is one she would want her children to read. If I’d written it, I wouldn’t want my offspring to read it.

All of the people who Strayed met on the trail were very giving, which was very refreshing after hearing multiple news stories about how those trying to help someone in need will frequently fall victim to assault. We felt that in a situation like hiking, people are generally nicer to those they fun into. Ed, the trail angle, was my favorite example, and one of our favorite characters, along with Jonathan. Because they have the same shared experience, they feel a sense of camaraderie that strangers wouldn’t feel otherwise. Though, we felt the others on the trail didn’t have the same drive as Cheryl; they had other lives to go back to, options they could take if the trail defeated them. Strayed was very stranded on the trail.

We questioned why the PCT seemed attractive to Strayed at that stage in her life. Now, as a wife and mother, we doubt that she would be so willing to go hiking alone for three months. We think she wanted to get as far from her life as she could; she was unhappy with her divorce and felt she had nothing left in Minnesota that was worth sticking around for. She was desperate to do something on her own and hiking alone is probably one of the most solitary things a person can do. We believe she wanted to do it as a sort of confidence booster as well. We felt she’d lost a lot of faith in herself when her mother passed and that hiking alone helped boost her self-esteem. One of our members suggested that she might have done the hike to have something to write about, being a writer after all. Whatever her motivation, we were all amazed she never gave up.

Strayed seems to pinpoint her reason for going as the death of her mother. We felt that her mother was the only thing giving her life direction before she got sick. Without the rudder of her mother to hold her on course, Strayed didn’t have a paddle to steer with. She gave up her life to grieve for her mother. Having the ability to stop living to grieve is a luxury and after dropping out of school and getting a divorce, she couldn’t afford that luxury any longer. Her time on the trail finally gave her the time to grieve. She was so angry on her mother’s 50th birthday, anger being the second stage of grief, a long-awaited step for Strayed to take.

Even before her mother’s passing, Strayed seemed a little off the beaten trail. Her mom and she didn’t have the most stable relationship, either. Her mom was somewhat in-and-out of her life, never around because she had to work and then coddling her children when she could afford to. We never understood her mother’s financial responsibility, which might explain Cheryl’s recklessness as well. How could she insist that she needed a horse when her family couldn’t afford running water?

Strayed never seemed to take responsibility for her actions, something she may have gotten from her mother. She didn’t finish college, even though she was only one class from graduating. Now, we see that she’s gone back to finish it, but at the time it wasn’t something that crossed her mind. Her younger brother, Leif, was only eighteen when their mother died and Cheryl didn’t provide comfort or any means to him when he was left alone. The thing that bothered our group the most was how she abandoned her relationship with Paul. She began acting like he didn’t exist or matter, cheating on him with every chance she had. Being on the trail forced her to take responsibility for her actions.

We debated if the hike helped her get over Paul and our consensus was that she didn’t need to get over him, he needed to get over her more than anything. They were still very involved in each other’s lives after the divorce, something that I think hurt Paul more than Cheryl. I’m glad that they were able to move on, but I still think it’s weird that they got ‘divorce tattoos.’

One of the reviews we saw for the book called it ‘funny,’ but not many of our group agreed with that statement. There were a few funny moments, when she urinated on the road because there was no one around and seconds later a car went by being one example. We also laughed when she ran into the stoned hippies looking for a music festival, when she was covered in mini frogs, and when she shook someone’s hand minutes after putting a natural sponge in for a tampon. Overall, we didn’t find it that funny.

One of our members did think there were a few eerie moments that almost seemed supernatural. The first was when she saw a fox on the trail and called out to it, ‘Mom!’ It felt like she had felt the presence of her mother in the animal. The other was when the Swiss woman said she was her calling to rub Cheryl’s feet (244). I think this reflects Strayed’s sentiment that she was supposed to be hiking the trail.

Someone compared this book to Bill Bryson’s book A Walk in the Woods. I’ve never read Bryson, but I’ve been told this title is very funny; probably as funny as the lone reviewer found Strayed’s book to be. It got me thinking a lot about how I’d like to go hiking, but geographically it would make more sense for me to hike on the Appalachian Trail. One of our members had done what’s called ‘hut hiking’ on the Appalachian Trail in New Hampshire. I don’t know about you, Reader, but I think this looks incredible.

There is a moving coming out soon based on this book with Reese Witherspoon playing Cheryl. We talked about how we’d expected someone younger, but that movie magic can take off years. We pictured someone more like Ellen Page, Amy Adams, or even Dakota Fanning to play the role. Who do you think would be good in the role?

Our next book for this group is Chad Harbach’s The Art of Fielding which I’m currently listening to on my phone. I think that will make for a wonderful discussion as well.

Until next time, write on.

Book Review: Wild by Cheryl Strayed (4/5)

5 Feb

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.

Cover Image via Goodreads.com

Cover Image via Goodreads.com

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed

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.

Related Posts
Why I’m Not Wild About Cheryl Strayed’s ‘Wild’ |One-Minute Book Reviews
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Review: Wild by Cheryl Strayed |Books and Reviews

Recently Added to my To-Read Shelf

9 Oct

My list has gotten out of control this past week!  Nine books added to it.  That brings me to a total of 95 and I don’t know how I’m ever going to make a dent in it.  Oh Reader, I’m begging you; let me know if any of these are terrible or not worth my time.  I can only read so much before I die.

  1. Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell: After reading Fangirl, Nicole started on this one and assures me that it’s amazing.  Two teens who know falling in love won’t last, but can’t help doing it anyway.
  2. The Tilted World by Tom Franklin and Beth Ann Fennelly: Here’s another book I won on First Reads!  And to make it even better, it’s set in the 20s and talks about bootleggers.  I couldn’t be more excited.  It’s the story of two detectives who go to investigate the disappearance of fellow agents and get mixed up with Miss Dixie Clay, the most notorious bootlegger in the south.
  3. Writing Fiction for Dummies by Randy Ingermanson: On my previous post talking about the credentials a writer needs, Nicole send me a list of links and one was to Ingermanson’s blog.  I liked is writing style and advice so I think a read of his book might be in order.
  4. Writing Young Adult Fiction for Dummies by Deborah Halverson: The logical following of a book on writing fiction is the more niche book on YA fiction.
  5. Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys: I have a theory that if you see a book twice, you should just scoop it up and read it.  I saw Sepetys book once on Bermuda Onion’s Weblog so when I saw it again (Lord knows where), it had to go on the list!  The daughter of a prostitute, Josie longs to get escape New Orleans but the thread tying her to a mysterious murder is strong.  It sounds like some solid YA fiction that I’m glad I found.
  6. Waiting to be Heard by Amanda Knox: After how much I disliked Jaycee Dugard’s memoir, I was hesitant to add Knox’s to my list.  When a friend from my Spanish group recommended it, I couldn’t resist and here it is!  If you’re unfamiliar with Amanda’s story, I’ll summarize.  She was 20 and studying abroad in Italy when her roommate was killed.  Amanda was tried and convicted of the murder, spending four years in Italian prison before new evidence brought the case back to trial and she was acquitted and allowed to move home to the US.  This is her story.
  7. Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed: This is another book I’ve seen repeatedly and couldn’t keep off of the list.  This memoir traces a woman’s decision to escape from a crumbling life and hike alone on the West Coast trail with minimal experience.  I do love a good memoir and this one seems to have won many awards (hopefully for the right reasons).
  8. Wild Ink: Success Secrets to Writing and Publishing in the Young Adult Market by Victoria Hanley: I asked at my writer’s workshop if anyone had read any good books about YA publishing specifically and this one was recommended.  I hope to give it a go soon!
  9. Writing and Selling the YA Novel by K.L. Going: This was another workshop recommendation and I’m not as sold on this one.  Any suggestions, reader?
  10. The Round House by Louise Erdich: Recommended by my supervisor who reads almost as much as I do!  When his mother is violently attacked, Joe is desperate to bring her back from the edge as she draws into herself.  His quest takes him and his friends to the Round House, a sacred place of worship of the Ojibwe.

Reader, I implore you for your help!  Which of these are keepers and which can I pitch?  Please help me prune down the ever-growing list to a manageable size!