Wednesday, June 5, 2013
Book Review: Wild by Cheryl Strayed
Author: Cheryl Strayed
Enjoyment Rating: *****
Source: Kindle for iPad
This book would be rated: PG-13 for adult themes, drug use, frank discussions of sex and infidelity
I'm late to the Wild bandwagon, but I'm jumping on with both feet. A year or so ago, I took this book out of the library, but never got around to reading it. It wasn't until Strayed was on Radio West a few months ago that I decided I needed to listen to her story, about how at the age of 26, she started to heal herself from her mother's early death (and a childhood of abuse, which she doesn't talk about in the story), by walking the Pacific Coast Trail, alone, from the Mojave Desert in California to the Bride of the Gods near Portland, Oregon. Even then, I made it my phone book, which is the book I read waiting in the car pool line or at dance lessons, when I'm usually distracted by the babies, or lying on the floor of one of their bedrooms while they fall asleep. In other words, probably not the best way to get really sucked into a narrative.
But once I got sucked in, I got sucked in hard. I'm the kind of girl who has always, always been a good girl. The most reckless thing I did as a teenager was moon a car full of boys once when I was sixteen. I went from living with my parents to my college roommates to my husband. And even then, I lived by the rules. I have conventional, conservative, suburban lifestyle. And I'm always, always, always surrounded by people. So I was fascinated by the choices Strayed had made that made her feel like she wanted to hike the PCT. She had gotten married at nineteen but cheated on her husband over and over in the last years of their marriage, which ended months before the journey. She did a whole bunch of heroin. She floated from job to job. She had major unresolved issues with almost every member of her family, including her dead mother. So hiking the PCT was almost a kind of self-imposed rehab-- she'd hike the trail and get her life back together.
I was also fascinated by the fact that Strayed hiked alone. As an introvert with a husband and six kids, I don't have fantasies about escaping to exotic tropical locales. I have fantasies about escaping anywhere, even a Motel 6, where I could be by myself for a day or two. Strayed spent nearly three months almost entirely by herself. Yes, there were other people on the trail, but she'd go days without seeing anyone. I think that the solitude would be both a greater bliss and a greater challenge than the hike itself.
And besides the honesty of her story and the sheer wow factor of it, Strayed is a totally fantastic writer. I got to the point near the end of the story where it had become like a drug for me-- I could not put it down. And when I did, I got right back on Amazon and ordered another of her books.