Release Date: March 20th, 2012
Source: Physical ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
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.
220 reviews? Well you certainly don't need mine then. Because of that, I will make this less of a structured review, and more of a summary of my thoughts I had while reading this book. That's easier. And most of my responses to this book were more emotional than technical. Because, let's face it. The writing in Wild was outstanding. If you love books with beautiful prose, this is the book for you.
The story, however, was one of the saddest I have ever read. I did not know that at its crux was the topic of Cancer. Had I known that, I probably would not have touched this book with a 10 foot pole. Losing a mother to lung cancer hits a little too close to home for me. But in a way, maybe I needed to read this. Cancer has affected my family deeply. But before reading this? I thought this was going to be a great and fun piece of travel fiction. I like hiking stories. I guess I just didn't think it was going to go as deep emotionally as it did. Boy, was I surprised.
I loved the author's writing voice. As I was reading, I felt like I was truly getting to know Cheryl and what she was like as a person. Now that I am finished, I don't think if I met her we would be friends (I'm just being honest), but there is no denying that she has been through a lot and came out on top. Back to the writing voice. It was fantastic. I loved the tone AND her writing style. I found it extremely easy to get lost in the story and forget the world around you. For me, it was hard to relate to a former drug addict, but I definitely did try. And I want to talk about that more.
When it comes to my star rating, I can't give it 5 stars. And believe me, I want to. But this comes down to what I said in the last paragraph. Because I could not relate to Cheryl and her choices, I had to knock off a star. This seems kind of unfair because it is a memoir and this stuff really happened, but I have to think about how the book made me feel. I felt that the author made some pretty poor decisions, and because of that I had a hard time empathizing AND sympathizing with her. Heroin usage? Meaningless sex while being married? Everyone makes mistakes, and I get that, but I would not have done the things she did no matter how messed up my life was. And that was where the problem was for me. I am glad that she fixed her life, hiked the trail, and rose above it, however. I just think she was selfishly reckless. And because I know and have known people like this (and they have died), I have even LESS sympathy.
I can easily give this book 4 stars though. The writing was lovely and the author was great at developing emotions from the reader with her writing style. Great flow and transitions from scene to scene and from flashback to present time as well. And even though I could not relate to the author, I still enjoyed her storytelling and the adventure she was on. I also learned a ton about long distance hiking. I think this book will make readers want to get out there and hike and take action in their own lives.
"It was wrong. It was so relentlessly awful that my mother had been taken from me. I couldn't even hate her properly. I didn't get to grow up and pull away from her and bitch about her with my friends and confront her about the things I wish she'd done differently and then get older and understand that she had done the best she could and realize that what she had done was pretty damn good and take her fully back into my arms again. Her death had obliterated that." Powerful.
To order a copy of Wild from Amazon.com, click here: Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail.