Author: Cheryl Strayed
Source: Barnes and Noble
A powerful, blazingly honest memoir: the story of an eleven-hundred-mile solo hike that broke down a young woman reeling from catastrophe—and built her back up again.
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.
I loved this book times a million! I have never read a book so actively! I cried like a baby in parts, wanted her to get her life together in others, and rooted for her to do well and complete the PCT as she wanted. I couldn't believe that she had never really thru-hiked/backpacked before attempting the PCT. I also couldn't believe she was doing it not only not as an experienced hiker, but that she wasn't in that great of shape, as a drug addict, and doing heroin a mere 48 hours before her hike. This poor woman's life was spiraling out of control, circling the drain, until she started this walk, and found herself, forgave herself, and also, forgave her mother. I was impressed by her toughness and strength, her honesty, and by her own self acceptance. And I feel inspired to walk the AT or the PCT now myself!
I mentioned this was an active reading for me, in parts it became my own form of reader participation. She talked about student loans; I remembered I had to pay mine. She mentioned her POW/MIA bracelet; I got up and looked for mine. (I didn't find, I had taken it off for a medical procedure and now I don't know where it is) She said that her last name was one of her own creation- after her divorce she felt she could not use her maiden name, nor her married name, and came up with Strayed, naming herself. She had strayed in many ways - from her marriage vows, from the straight and narrow, from the norm, and then from society, in a way, in her thru-hike on the PCT. I tried to think of what I would give myself as a last name; I am still thinking about it.
Another observation: Cheryl spoke very frankly about her sexuality. Her affairs while married, her desire for other hikers on the trail and men she met on her journey , the fact that she had packed 12 condoms hoping to use them - I found this very interesting, only for the reason that I have read other memoirs such as hers, by men, who do not once bring this up. I just thought it was interesting - no judgement, just interesting.
During Strayed's hike and journey, she carried books with her and also mailed new ones to herself, at her supply stops. She burned most of the books as she read them, to lighten her load, but kept a few, and carried them the whole way. She read ten books, not including guide books (if I remember right! I loaned the book out this morning) uncaring about the weight she would have to carry. I would do this, I know it. But then I thought, what books would I want? I haven't finished the whole list, but the ones I did come up with are, the most obvious first, Walden by Thoreau, Dharma Bums by Kerouac, the poems of Dylan Thomas, a Carol Goodman book, The Hotel New Hampshire by John Irving, and Franny and Zooey by JD Salinger. I am not sure about the rest yet. What about you? What books would you take?