[This review has some borderline spoilers – although so does the book’s title.]
Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail
by Cheryl Strayed
I had no intention of reading this book and am kind of surprised that I stayed with it – but I say that as a great compliment to the author. I saw this on the “shelf” of my library’s online selections and wondered if it was anything like Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods, a book I loved. It’s not, but once I started reading I was impressed by the author’s intelligence and writing skills and intrigued by her story – the true story of the first 26 years of her life.
This is a book many people would not like because the author is so honest and open about her many flaws. The central event that launches the story is her mother’s death when the author is 22 and the mother 45. The loss is devastating for her – understandably so – and she deals with it in less than constructive ways, to say the least.
As the title of the book suggests, she takes a long hike mostly alone on the Pacific Crest Trail through California and Oregon. She becomes a much more whole person as we see her facing fear and loneliness and the forces of nature in ways that are smart and strong. She also begins to deal more constructively with the bad things that have happened in her life.
Going back to Bill Bryson, and to Cheryl Strayed’s credit, hers is a better book in the sense of having a good narrative structure. Even as a memoir, it reads like a story and leads to some resolution at the end. I love Bill Bryson but his books tend to wander far off the beaten path – so to speak – and there’s rarely a sense that a journey has been completed.
I don’t think I could recommend the book to everyone but I appreciated it and found it to be one of those books that will stay with me for a while. (And no, I haven’t seen the Reese Witherspoon movie.)