Monday, June 25, 2012

Wild, wilder, wildest

I'm reading Cheryl Strayed's book Wild.
Who: "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 [PCT] 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." (

Or, in other words, she screwed up her life and needed to hit the reset button.  Broken by the loss of her family and identity, she destroyed a marriage with a man she loved with her affairs, becomes a heroin user, and she was directionless and unhinged in a meaningless existence.  She walks the PCT alone, needing to find her salvation.  In short, a promising premise.
Why read it: Every one, and I mean everyone, fantasizes about hitting that re-set button after some seriously self-destructive behaviour (of course, dear reader, I don't mean you).  She describes doing awful things to people she loves, yet makes no excuses.  We've all done the former, but not the latter.  Moreover, solitude is seductive.  A very long walk is a test of strength that seemingly anyone can do, and yet can't do.

Personal angle: I hike.  I walked a tiny bit of the PCT.  I fantasize about walking the Appalachian trail. In the past, leaving society for two weeks at a time has been good for my soul; spending the day worrying about nothing but food, water, mileage and shelter is wonderful-- I've always wondered what it would be like to do it for longer periods and have a cool trail name.  And, there are not enough books about women in the woods.  Finally, I like makeovers: the PCT is a chrysalis of sorts for Strayed.

What's good: Brutal simple writing. Her writing is like watching an animal being flayed alive. Oprah recommends it.
What's bad: See above.

Clip (I did warn you):
 “Shoot her again,” I gasped, and immediately Leif did, firing three more bullets into her head in quick succession. She stumbled and jerked, but she didn’t fall and she didn’t run, though she was no longer tied to the tree. Her eyes were wild upon us, shocked by what we’d done, her face a constellation of bloodless holes. In an instant I knew we’d done the wrong thing, not in killing her, but in thinking that we should be the ones to do it. I should have insisted Eddie do this one thing, or paid for the veterinarian to come out. I’d had the wrong idea of what it takes to kill an animal. There is no such thing as one clean shot. “Shoot her! Shoot her!” I pleaded in a guttural wail I didn’t know was mine.
“I’m out of bullets,” Leif yelled. “Lady!” I shrieked. Paul grabbed my shoulders to pull me toward him and I batted him away, panting and whimpering as if someone were beating me to death. Lady took one wobbling step and then fell onto her front knees, her body tilting hideously forward as if she were a great ship slowly sinking into the sea. Her head swayed and she let out a deep moan. Blood gushed from her soft nostrils in a sudden, great torrent, hitting the snow so hot it hissed. She coughed and coughed, tremendous buckets of blood coming each time, her back legs buckling in excruciating slow motion beneath her. She hovered there, struggling to stay grotesquely up, before she finally toppled over onto her side, where she kicked her legs and flailed and twisted her neck and fought to rise again.
Most overused words in reviews of Wild: "Honesty" "Unflinching" "Searing"

Trivia: This book has been optioned by Reece Witherspoon.  Coming soon to a theater near you!

But I remain skeptical: Walking the PCT is an accomplishment.  I'm in awe.  And the lessons learned from a trip can transform you, a bit.  But at the end of the journey, you still remain you.

In conclusion: Eat, Pray, Love for women who shop at REI.


  1. This book is on my list of "must reads" this summer. Thank you for writing a little bit about it, now I MUST read it :)

  2. Love the way you review this book!! Especially the "In Conclusion"!

  3. This book sounds great! Thanks so much for sharing!