My friend Alison suggested I read Cheryl Strayed’s new book “Wild” (thanks, Al!). I tend to stay away from Oprah book club suggestions (purely because I find EVERYONE is reading them and talking about them) but this one looked so intriguing that I purchased it from Amazon.
You probably have already heard about this book, but in case you haven’t, “Wild” follows Cheryl Strayed’s trek along 1,100 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail (the western cousin to the East’s Appalachian Trail) as she seeks to heal and redefine her life. At the start of the book we find Cheryl as a lost soul. Her mother has died (which devastates her), her relationship with her family of origin is shaky, her biological father is out of the picture, and she’s recently divorced her husband (who seems like he’s still a steady “beacon” in the mire her life has become). She’s been dating a guy who gets her into heroine. She’s openly honest about her sexual promiscuity. In a word, Cheryl is a bit of a mess. Then she decides to hike the Pacific Crest Trail as a way to save and heal herself. It’s a classic “journey to find oneself” story, but it’s Strayed’s own memoir.
I have to say when I started reading this novel, I did not relate to or care for our protagonist. She seemed incredibly self-centered, to the point of hedonistic. She was drifting around her in her life, making bad decisions. She was suffering but dealing with her suffering through self-indulgence. Then she almost randomly decides to hike the PCT with little to no preparation or experience. I actually found that part funny. It was then that I started to connect with Cheryl as her first hiking days were basically bumbling and mishaps. I’d think to myself: “Gee, that would probably be my experience, too: blisters, rattlesnakes, a too-heavy pack, and band-aids that blow away”. By the time Cheryl got to Northern California I was rooting for her to finish. I was hoping she stayed safe (personally, the thought of trekking 1,100 miles alone is terrifying). I was hoping she figured out that her drug use and abuse and her sexual behaviors were not the way to deal with her pain and grief. I was hoping she would come through the journey stronger and wiser and healed.
I’ll leave it to you readers to discover how Cheryl makes out!