Title: Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail
Author: Cheryl Strayed
Release Date: March 20, 2012
Genre: Non-Fiction, Memoir
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Reeling from the death of her mother and trying to cope with the failure of her marriage, Cheryl Strayed decided to do something most people have never even heard of: hike the PCT. The PCT, or Pacific Crest Trail, runs from Mexico to California, and Wild is a chronicle of Cheryl’s physical and psychological battle with the world around her.
From the beginning of Wild, it’s clear that Cheryl Strayed was at a turning point in her life when she decided to embark on her PCT hike. She was floundering, unable to get a grasp on anything, and she needed to throw herself into something wholeheartedly. Being at the mercy of nature, rather than the casual cruelty of life, was something that Cheryl craved. In her solitude, she could ponder her life and grieve the death of both her mother and her marriage, and perhaps gain some closure. It’s a beautifully written and contemplative memoir, about the highs and lows of life and our relationships with one another.
But at the same time, Wild is so much more than a memoir about loss and grief. It’s primal, about Cheryl’s fight with the world around her. It’s about lifting her monstrously heavy backpack for the first time (aptly nicknamed Monster) and losing her boots on the trail. It’s about realizing how horribly unprepared she is, especially with her inexperience at hiking. It’s about worrying whether she’ll have enough food and water, and not being sure if she has the energy to take another step. Just as much as it’s about a hike and about grief, this is a memoir of survival.
Cheryl’s frankness with the reader in Wild is incredibly refreshing. Her emotions are raw, her grief bubbling towards the surface. She doesn’t mince words or try to make herself appear in the best light possible. She tells the reader the pure, unadulterated truth and leaves it for them to decide and judge. Strayed tells some difficult, heartbreaking stories, and she makes no secret of the fact that the breakup of her marriage was in no small part due to her own infidelity. But instead of judging Cheryl, the reader is inclined to sympathize with her. Yes, she made some bad decisions, but in the end, no one is perfect. Had she tried to skirt around these issues, it may have been easy to pronounce judgment on her, but her refreshing honesty makes her very appealing.
In the end, Wild is a book of our innate human weaknesses, but also the untapped reserves of strength we all possess. Strayed’s unhappiness and inability to cope with her sadness led her to some of the weakest moments of her life, but she found strength she didn’t know she had on the PCT. It’s an amazing journey on so many levels, and Strayed’s intense, vivid descriptions and raw, powerful narrative will strike a chord with readers.