― Cheryl Strayed, Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail
Publication Date: 2007
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.
2. Strayed’s voice is RAW. This girl doesn’t hold back. You will hear about her promiscuous love life, her deciding to cheat on her husband, her drug use.. She makes no apologies. She has regrets and she doesn’t think she was on the right path, but she never says she wishes she didn’t do it. I think I really connected to the idea that every bad thing she did lead to where she was then. Of course, she wrote this novel a whole 8 years AFTER her trek up the PCT, so there’s a lot of introspection and forgiveness there. If she had written this memoir immediately after her trip, I think it would have sounded much different.
3. There are dissenters. I try to go into the book without expectations. Of course, I (being addicted to Goodreads) like to read the reviews of a book AFTER I read the novel. And these reviews surprised me. There were many reviews citing that they HATED this book because of Strayed’s unapologetic, or even “dissmissive”, tone when discussing her past transgressions. Many people criticized her for being silly enough to try to hike the PCT with so little experience, or they felt like she was looking for pity when complaining about her mother’s death or her toenails falling off. I didn’t see it like this at all. I connected with Strayed because, seriously, it made me feel like I could totally go hike a mountain. It wouldn’t be easy (she never said it would be). But I felt like despite being ill prepared and lacking experience, I could do it because she did it. I connected with Strayed because I felt like she was on my level — imperfect and searching.
This memoir hit me at my core, and while there were a few improvements that could be made with her storytelling, overall, it was one of the best nonfiction books I’ve ever read.
“The universe, I’d learned, was never, ever kidding. It would take whatever it wanted and it would never give it back.”
“Don’t surrender all your joy for an idea you used to have about yourself that isn’t true anymore.”
“There’s no way to know what makes one thing happen and not another. What leads to what. What destroys what. What causes what to flourish or die or take another course.”