Wild by Cheryl Strayed
As a writer and fan of personal memoirs, I couldn’t wait to read Cheryl Strayed’s personal account of her hike on the Pacific Coast Trail from Southern California to Oregon. After the death of her mother and personal setbacks that made her rethink her life’s direction, the author set out on the 1,100-mile hike with limited trekking experience or knowledge of wilderness survival.
Strayed’s account is harrowing and humoring, sad and satirical as she recounts encounters with scenery, weather, wildlife and humans captivating and brutal. She is a victim of her own naivety in thinking she could prepare herself for a long and difficult journey with only a rudimentary understanding of trekking imparted by a guidebook and veteran hikers who crossed her path. In spite of natural and sometimes self-inflicted adversity, Strayed persevered.
I enjoyed the author’s inspiring story and the life lessons she picked up along the way. I now have a much better idea of what to expect on a grueling trek like the Pacific Coast Trail. Her offbeat, quirky personality and humorous stories and anecdotes make the memoir an entertaining read. With vivid imagery, Strayed takes the reader along with her and shows what it’s like to be at the point of despair in the middle of nowhere. In the end, she redeems herself and serves as a personal example to those who need to find a different way in life.
Unfortunately, the book begins with a series of vignettes so depressing that they risk turning off the reader. In her attempt to underscore personal redemption, the author paints such a debased portrait of her old self that she risks turning off the reader. The Cheryl Strayed who needs to get her life together by hitting the Pacific Coast Trail is not a likeable character. Perhaps by design, the author discourages the reader to continue reading her story by offering such a terrible image of herself that one wonders if she was really so awful or merely embellished. Her strong views gradually worn down by the trail might be a turn-off to those who don’t agree with her politics. Getting through the beginning of the book is like climbing out of a steep valley. It’s better skies ahead once you reach the top.
I give “Wild” 4 stars and recommend it to mountaineering and trekking fans, those who are thinking of embarking on a months-long trek, and those who need inspiration to jump start their lives.
Wild is now available at: