M Daly, March 13, 2014 (view all comments by M Daly)
When Cheryl Strayed's mother died, she was left without an anchor. To regain a sense of purpose and battle some demons, she decided to hike the entire Pacific Coast Trail from San Diego to The Bridge of the Gods in Oregon. Never having backpacked before, she went to REI, bought a lot of gear and set off, without even taking a practice trip. Her journey is sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes scary, and sometimes hilarious. While the book did not make me want to lace up my boots and head down the trail, I did enjoy reading about her travels.
Melinda Ott, June 14, 2013 (view all comments by Melinda Ott)
There are a couple of reasons why I should not have liked this book. First of all, it was spectacularly hyped by the time I got to it--Strayed is a local author, so we heard a lot about this book in this neck of the woods. And it was an Oprah book. And it is going to be a movie soon. That alone probably could have kept me from the book except that one of my close friends, whose taste in books is similar to mine, raved about it.
Second reason: it falls into a category in my mind of books about women overcoming personal demons and difficult histories that women love and I hate. I grouped it together with The Glass Castle and Carry On, Warrior and, worst of all in my mind, Eat, Pray, Love. Wild definitely shares characteristics with these books, in my opinion, but I guess I'm a slow learner and decided to read it anyway.
The third reason became apparent as I started the book. Strayed, at least at the beginning of the book, is incredibly unlikable. This is usually the kiss of death for me when reading memoirs, but not in this case. Strayed is able to write about her past unpleasant self in a way that you just know that she will eventually get past this and, now, she is much nicer. At least I hope so!
You'd think it would be a case of three strikes and you're out with this book, but I actually truly enjoyed this book. Yes, Strayed is an utter mess as she starts her hike--and rather, well, stupid when it comes to some her personal choices about hiking and life. But she does learn and she does grow and, really, that is what this book is about.
Strayed uses language beautifully and her descriptions make you feel as if you are on the PCT (although, having hiked some sections of the PCT in the Gorge, I have something to compare to which I can compare her descriptions!). She is not afraid to describe the person she really was when she started this journey in 1995.
The only complaint I have about this book is that, once she gets into Oregon on the trail, Strayed starts to rush towards the end of the book. I understand why this may be--at that point she's well on her way to healing--but I was looking forward to reading her adventures in Oregon as she'd be on my turf! Instead, the bulk of this book takes place on the California segment of the trail.
This is not a book about hiking the Pacific Crest Trail--there are other books to be found if that is what you are wanting. If you are looking a book about personal growth, recovery and triumph, then Wild would be an excellent book for you.
dmard, May 2, 2013 (view all comments by dmard)
Wow! I lived my normally stressful everyday life during the day, but every morning I was privileged enough to hike the Pacific Coast Trail along with Cheryl Strayed. It was like taking a little vacation every day and it made me realize that even though I wasn't going to hike the PCT from California to Oregon, the PCT and her journey is a beautiful metaphor for life.
Diana9009, April 10, 2013 (view all comments by Diana9009)
Because while I will probably never hike the PCT, because while I will probably not go through the things that Cheryl went through on her way to the PCT, I have had my own share of what I've had. And her chant, her present-tense chant on the trail (I am not afraid, I am not afraid) is the kind of chant any one of us might have, doing any one of the hundreds of things we must do to live our lives. That is what this book is about, to me. It's beautiful. I want to give it to people.
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I know this title is everywhere right now. I was very fortunate to get an advanced copy, and I immediately fell in love. Why? Well, like many, my favorite books are those that seem to have been written just for me. I deeply understood the raw ache of grief, anger, and loneliness. I wanted to run away to fill that black maw with anything other than what I was feeling. Cheryl did too. I didn't take it as far as hiking the Pacific Crest Trail solo, but I laughed out loud at many parts, seeing myself on her journey. Bittersweet, fulfilling, and healing.
by Morgan R.
by Peter N.,
This is the amusing, thoughtful, downright zany story of a young woman's eye-opening 1,000-plus-mile trek up the Pacific Crest Trail, all the way to the Bridge of the Gods. It inspired me to undertake my own hike — 10 miles on the Appalachian Trail. It was exhausting!
by Peter N.
by Melissa Maerz, Entertainment Weekly,
"A rich, riveting true story....During her grueling three-month journey, Strayed circled around black bears and rattlesnakes, fought extreme dehydration by drinking oily gray pond water, and hiked in boots made entirely of duct tape. Reading her matter-of-fact take on love and grief and the soul-saving quality of a Snapple lemonade, you can understand why Strayed has earned a cult following as the author of Dear Sugar, a popular advice column on therumpus.net....With its vivid descriptions of beautiful but unforgiving terrain, Wild is a cinematic story, but Strayed’s book isn’t really about big, cathartic moments. The author never ‘finds herself’ or gets healed. When she reaches the trail’s end, she buys a cheap ice cream cone and continues down the road....It’s hard to imagine anything more important than taking one step at a time. That’s endurance, and that’s what Strayed understands, almost 20 years later. As she writes, ‘There was only one [option], I knew. To keep walking.’ Our verdict: A."
by Marjorie Kehe, Christian Science Monitor,
"Strayed’s journey was as transcendent as it was turbulent. She faced down hunger, thirst, injury, fatigue, boredom, loss, bad weather, and wild animals. Yet she also reached new levels of joy, accomplishment, courage, peace, and found extraordinary companionship."
by Karen R. Long, The Cleveland Plain Dealer,
"Strayed writes a crisp scene; her sentences hum with energy. She can describe a trail-parched yearning for Snapple like no writer I know. She moves us briskly along the route, making discrete rest stops to parcel out her backstory. It becomes impossible not to root for her."
by Dwight Garner, The New York Times,
"The cumulative welling up I experienced during Wild was partly a response to that too infrequent sight: that of a writer finding her voice, and sustaining it, right in front of your eyes."
by Michael Schaub, NPR Books,
“One of the most original, heartbreaking and beautiful American memoirs in years....The unlikely journey is awe-inspiring, but it's one of the least remarkable things about the book. Strayed, who was recently revealed as the anonymous author of the ‘Dear Sugar’ advice column of the literary website The Rumpus, writes with stunningly authentic emotional resonance — Wild is brutal and touching in equal measures, but there's nothing forced about it. She chronicles sorrow and loss with unflinching honesty, but without artifice or self-pity. There are no easy answers in life, she seems to be telling the reader. Maybe there are no answers at all. It's fitting, perhaps, that the writer chose to end her long pilgrimage at the Bridge of the Gods, a majestic structure that stretches a third of a mile across the Columbia, the largest river in the Pacific Northwest. We think of bridges as separating destinations, just as we think of long journeys as the price we have to pay to get from one place to another. Sometimes, though, the journey is the destination, and the bridge connects more than just dots on a map — it joins reality with the dream world, the living with the dead, the tame with the wild.”
by Bruce Machart, Houston Chronicle,
"Brilliant...pointedly honest....Part adventure narrative, part deeply personal reflection, Wild chronicles an adventure born of heartbreak....While it is certain that the obvious dangers of the trail are real — the cliffs are high, the path narrow, the ice slick, and the animal life wild — the book's greatest achievement lies in its exploration of the author's emotional landscape. With flashbacks as organic and natural as memory itself, Strayed mines the bedrock of her past to reveal what rests beneath her compulsion to hike alone across more than one thousand primitive miles: her biological father's abuse and abandonment, her mother's diagnosis and death, and her family's unraveling. Strayed emerges from her grief-stricken journey as a practitioner of a rare and vital vocation. She has become an intrepid cartographer of the human heart."
by Catherine Straut, Elle,
"Strayed's journey is the focal point of Wild, in which she interweaves suspenseful accounts of her most harrowing crises with imagistic moments of reflection. Her profound grief over her mother's death, her emotional abandonment by her siblings and stepfather, and her personal shortcomings and misadventures are all conveyed with a consistently grounded, quietly pained self-awareness. On the trail, she fends of everything from loneliness to black bears; we groan when her boots go tumbling off a cliff and we rejoice as she transforms from a terrified amateur hiker into the 'Queen of the PCT.' In a style that embodies her wanderlust, Strayed transports us with this gripping, ultimately uplifting tale."
by Marion Winik, Newsday,
"What should you do when you have truly lost your way? A. Go to rehab. B. Find God. C. Give up. D. Strap on an 80-pound backpack and hike 1,100 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail by yourself. Few of us who would even come up with D, much less do it. Yet that is exactly what Strayed did at age 26, though she had no serious experience backpacking or hiking. Within days of beginning her trek — already bruised, bloodied and broke — it occurred to her that this whimsical choice was the hardest thing she'd ever done....What she does have is brute persistence, sheer will and moxie, and her belief that there is only one option: 'To keep walking.'...In her journey from the most hapless hiker on Earth to the Queen of the PCT, Strayed offers not just practical and spiritual wisdom, but a blast of sheer, ferocious moral inspiration."
by Karen McCoy, Library Journal,
"Strayed recounts her experience hiking the PCT after her mother's death and her own subsequent divorce....She takes readers with her on the trail, and the transformation she experiences on its course is significant: she goes from feeling out of her element with a too-big backpack and too-small boots to finding a sense of home in the wilderness and with the allies she meets along the way. Readers will appreciate her vivid descriptions of the natural wonders."
A Best Nonfiction Book of 2012: The Boston Globe, Entertainment Weekly
A Best Book of the Year: NPR, St. Louis Dispatch, Vogue
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. With no experience or training, driven only by blind will, she would hike more than a thousand miles of the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to Washington State — and she would do it alone. Told with suspense and style, sparkling with warmth and humor, Wild powerfully captures the terrors and pleasures of one young woman forging ahead against all odds on a journey that maddened, strengthened, and ultimately healed her.
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