Author: Cheryl Strayed
# Pages: 336
Date published: March 20, 2012
5-star rating: 5 stars
Would you recommend it? Yes
Recently I was wondering through Barnes & Noble, when I stumbled across this book on one of the New York Times Bestsellers tables. In 2012, the book maintained the number one spot on the list for seven consecutive weeks. The book was also the first choice on Oprah’s Book Club 2.0 list in 2012. Since this is a book club memoir, it was an extremely fast read. I finished Wild in five days.
At age 22, Cheryl Strayed loses her mother to cancer. The events surrounding her mother’s death take an emotional toll on her. While Strayed’s mother is dying, her brother and sister distance themselves and continue to do so after the loss. Her stepfather also becomes completely absent from her life afterward. All of this forces Strayed to bottle in her emotions and leaves her feeling alone. Her husband, as hard as he tries, cannot provide enough comfort. They drift apart as a result from Strayed’s infidelity, heroin use, and lack of investment in the marriage.
As a result at age 26, Strayed wants to piece her life back together. She admits that she still loves her ex-husband when she sets out, but she now wants to find and love herself. The only way to find herself is to do it alone. While wondering through a gift shop one day, she stumbles across The Pacific Crest Trail, Volume 1: California. While she does not buy the book that day, the trail stays at the back of her mind. Eventually, after making the decision three times, Strayed sells the few things she owns, packs her backpack, and goes to the Mojave Desert to begin her 1,100 mile journey on the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) north to the Bridge of the Gods.
The PCT is one of the toughest hikes in the United States. Strayed has no real or substantial experience hiking or living out in the wild. Most of the people she meets are groups of young men. While she is a woman traveling alone, by the end of her journey she exceeds others’ expectations and earns the hiker name “Queen.” Many times she declines offers to join a group so that her only companion becomes her backpack that she names “Monster.”
Strayed weaves together her past and the hike into a seamless tale of self-discovery. Her anecdotes make the story believable and relatable. In the beginning, she cannot even lift her backpack without falling down. By the end, she can hike 20 miles in a single day. While she is a bit arrogant in the first few days of her journey, the overall experience humbles her and helps her realize who she is on her own. Each day of her hike has a different event that keeps your attention so that you end up cheering for her as the story progresses.
I would recommend this book to anyone because it is a classical identity story. Since Strayed is in her late twenties, it is better geared toward women in college. Her reflections can provide insight into the reader’s own life. You do not need to be from the west coast or a hiker to enjoy this book. Strayed writes in a manner that makes the long journey seem to fly by for the reader.
Review by Liz Handler, A&S '15