Saturday, May 11, 2013

Book: Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail
By Cheryl Strayed
Copyright 2012
346 pages (e-reader)

Cheryl, in her memoir, tells us the story of her life up to her mid-20s. After her mother dies, she falls apart and ultimately ends up hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, which is the west's version of the Appalachian Trail.

It runs from lower CA to Canada or thereabouts.

Anyway, the author sets out on this 1,000-mile hike about as unprepared as anyone can be. Her shoes are too small and her backpack too heavy. She comes across as very ignorant about a great many things. She says she spent six months "preparing" by going to various camping and hiking stores and receiving all kinds of advice, and not once did she think to load her pack or try on her shoes? Really?

My book club is reading this book for its May selection, so I finished it completely. Oprah also chose the book for her book club, which I am sure boosted the book sales tremendously. But I am not sure that I would have (a) read this book as a personal choice and (b) finished it if I had. However, I would have missed out had I not read the book. At least sometimes I think that. I have some ambivalence about this story.

It is well-written, but I grew tired of the character's whining. I think every other page was: Four years before I decided to hike, my mother died, so I broke up my marriage. My mother died, so I tried heroin. My mother died, so I lost my job. My mother died, so my family broke apart. You get the picture.

There were a good many physical complaints, too, about her feet (she ended up losing her toenails because her shoes were *that much* too tight!) and the heavy backpack. As far as I was concerned, these were things that were within her control and she chose this suffering for whatever reason. The woman was one class shy of a college degree, for heaven's sake. She wasn't - or shouldn't have been - as ignorant as she made out to be.

The character had a tough childhood, which accounts for a great many things, but after 300 pages I was a little tired of the pity party. I kept waiting for the epiphany that I knew from page 5 would need to happen, and when it finally did, I wiped my brow and said aloud, "Whew, this train wreck is finally coming to a close."

The book has over 1,000 five-star ratings, and about 125 one star ratings on Amazon. I fall somewhere in between. I'd give it a 3.5 perhaps, not because it is an enjoyable read but because it tells a story that I think needs to be told.

She doesn't make the obvious connections between her parental neglect and her train wreck of a life, but they are there for the discerning reader to see. I think I would have liked for her epiphany to have pointed this out more, but it didn't, though it alluded to it. I think parental neglect is rampant in the United States, and poor parents are everywhere. In fact, I think the entire country is suffering under the burden of these grown-ups who were never nurtured properly and so they take out their anger and frustration on everyone around them. Only instead of hiking some trail, they go into politics.

Because the message is so necessary, and because I didn't know there was a Pacific Crest Trail until I read the book, I suggest reading this story. However, I tell you that with this caveat: I don't know that you will enjoy it. You will, though, learn something, if you read with an open mind.


  1. Oprah tends to enjoy pity partys I think. I'm not much of a reader but all that whining would have caused me to toss the book in the brink! If I had a brink to throw it in which I did last week when it rained for 3 days. Didn't hear me whining now did you? Stupid backpacking girl.

  2. Good therapy, I guess. But not one I would choose. I would like the same amount of time at a spa...with massages and great, but healthy, food. Guess I'll go buy one of those lottery tickets.


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