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Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Review: WILD by Cheryl Strayed

Title: Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail
Author: Cheryl Strayed
Pub info: Alfred A. Knopf, 2012; 315 pp
Genre: adventure/memoir, written for adults

I've always admired people who can tackle arduous physical tasks, because I've always been kind of a wimp. Reading Cheryl's experiences made my morning suburban walks seem like, well, morning suburban walks.

Goodreads summary:
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.
Status: finished 7/5/14
My impressions:
This is the kind of book that you don't just read; you inhabit it. While I was buried in Wild, I felt like I was right there, hiking the Pacific Crest Trail with only four of my original ten toenails attached. (I know. Ew.) I was hungry, thirsty, exhausted. And I don't mean metaphorically. For example, I got my hair cut during the period I was reading this book. My stylist, who knows me pretty well, draped the waterproof cape over my shoulders and said, "Hey, have you been working out? Your back muscles are really defined." I nearly said to her, "Well, what do you expect? I've been hiking the PCT for the last two months." Seriously. Then I remembered I'd only been reading about it.

Kudos to Cheryl Strayed for writing with such vivid detail that I felt so completely immersed. Every night I went to bed feeling eternally grateful for the soft pillow and the glass of water that I didn't need to purify with iodine tablets. Her story is transporting. Is it inspiring in the way I thought it would be? Well, yes and no. I got to know the trail--and Cheryl--very well, but not so much the people she met along the way, who all kind of ran together in my mind. Some of them just grossed me out a little, to be honest--sex on the beach with a stranger sounds creepy, and shooting heroin is more than creepy. But I guess it's all part of the life journey. Whatever you think about it, you'll be thoroughly engrossed in Wild, should you choose to pick it up. And who knows? Maybe you'll get some well-defined back muscles out of the deal.

About Cheryl:
Strayed’s writing has appeared in the New York Times Magazine, The Missouri Review, The Best American Essays, and many other publications. She holds an MFA in fiction writing from Syracuse University and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Minnesota. Her other writings include the novel Torch (Houghton Mifflin, 2006). Today she lives in Portland, Oregon, with her husband and two children.

Cheryl's website resides here, where you can watch video interviews about her experiences and read up on her other works. You can also reach Cheryl on Twitter and Facebook. You can read a bit about the upcoming film adaptation of Wild, starring Reese Witherspoon, at Look for the film to be released in December of this year!

Want to win a free copy of this book? The first Monday of each month features a giveaway of any of the titles I've reviewed the previous month. Pick your fave, enter, and win! Next giveaway: August 4.
To follow my progress as I bulldoze my way through a stack of 51 to-be-reads this year, search for the tag 2014 TBR Shelf. Read all the reviews here.


  1. I've hiked the northernmost leg of the PCT, and it's gorgeous, but I've never had the insane desire to do the whole thing! When I heard about this book I thought I should probably read it, but a lot of reviews said that the character isn't very likeable (even though it's a memoir I won't say the author, because I'm sure she's very nice!). What did you think?

    1. You know, Kim, I'd have to agree: The MC isn't very likeable. That didn't mar my fascination with the story, but as I said, I just couldn't relate to the drug use and casual sexual encounters. But to be fair, the drug use was one of the problems she was trying to solve on what you might call an arduous walkabout. I think this would be a great read for someone like you, who's already familiar with the PCT. I'd love to see it myself.

  2. What an inspiring story. I would love to read this one. Thanks for the review.