Sunday, June 17, 2012

Wild-by Cheryl Strayed, A Book Review

I just finished reading Wild on the Nook, the e-reader by Barnes and Noble. It was a great experience, both literally and digitally. The e-reader weighs about 8 ounces and has over 250 books downloaded on it right now. My daughter swears by it, having used it to read in bed without disturbing the husband with bedside lights or flipping pages. She takes it on airplanes, allowing her to surf and read multiple genres without carting around a lot of heavy paper backs. There are tons of free books, cheap books and e -books not available any other place.

Now, lets talk about the book Wild. Written by Cheryl Strayed recently, she actually is telling the story of her Pacific Crest Trail section hike back in 1995. She includes poignant memories of her childhood, detailing how her mom died of cancer at the young age of 45. This great loss for Cheryl as one of three surviving children, is blamed for a series of misadventures, including infidelity and divorce.

Now, Cheryl seeks rebuilding and redemption on the trail. Some of us remember the saying, "the more difficult the journey, the more thorough the cleansing." Cheryl's backpack is enormously heavy, an exterior frame common in 1995. She is outfitted at REI and begins her journey at Mohave, jumping sections and ending her journey at the Bridge of the Gods, before crossing into Washington State. She was only 25, turning 26 on the trail.

I enjoyed reading the portions about the PCT, recognizing the places and circumstances so memorable to all long distance hikers. She doesn't sugar coat any of her newbie's mistakes, from shoes too small, not having enough money, leaving behind a treasured shirt after hanging it to dry on a limb.
I loved how she grew to embrace an alternate view of the universe, knowing it both took things away and couldn't care less about our comforts. I call this power the trail gods.

Having to bypass the High Sierras because of record snow, she meets and greets the few rare PCT hikers along the way, clearly chronicling the hiker bond, bemoaning the clear cuts raping the land, the waterless stretches leading to near heat exhaustion.

One of the first female soloists on the PCT, Cheryl had remarkably few bad experiences with hitchhiking and town encounters. Maybe things weren't as desperate back in '95. I don't know. I hiked solo in 2001, starting at the Mexican border. I sure liked having company when I had it, but also felt the same Amazonian Warrior thing she hoped to exude. Its a great mystery, this love hate relationship.

She eventually finds one hiking pole in a free hiker's box, gets a new pair of hiking boots, hikes in sandals duck taped to survive the week of complete dependency, gets laid. Life is sweet when the gods smile.

Read this book if you get a chance. While Cheryl back stories about her father's physical abuse of her mother, the therapist's attempt to discover why she is so detached, the regrettable divorce of the man she loved, there is alot of trail story and history, a touch of legend and lore. Once done reading this PCT account, you will definitely understand the mindset of the long distance hiker. I love that she carried a feather all the way. I did too.

Touching base with the inner wild woman.


  1. I really enjoyed the book too! Found it at the local library last month and quickly devoured it. Her writting style and candor about the hardships she endured make this a favorite read for me as well.

    Two weeks ago I broke down and finally purchased a Kindle Fire online for our girl scout trip. I was able to download books very easily and read them and sure save space. Normaly I take at least 3 or 4 books for a long plane trip and this really saved on space plus I could read at night and not bother my room mate or the other passengers on the plane trip. My daughter read about 4 books on it too while we were gone for 10 days. I did not take a cell phone because it is too expensive in Europe for roaming and used my laptop to post on facebook and keep in touch. I did not want to pay for two devices for internet hookup so I just used the laptop but the kindle fire would work for that too.

  2. this technology has come a long ways, Flo, making hard copy a lot more tedious. I loved the back lighting, the quietness of reading the e-book. Glad you made it back safe, great photos on facebook, too.

  3. Second recommendation for this book I've gotten in a week, guess I better read it! Love my Nook, took it on the AT, an idea that would have horrified me on my first hike.

  4. Hi I just finished reading wild - started it yesterday evening and read it through the night and most of! I could relate to her struggles of becoming herself and being OK with being Alone. I am almost 70 now and after a lifetime of taking care of others, My kids, my husband, my home, my work. I am totally OK with being me and being ALONE!

  5. I am always impressed with women who are comfortable being alone. So much of society is all about having someone, a Significant other.

    I related to her struggles, too and find the total honesty touches us more than smoothing it over, being too strong, being a hero.

    thanks for posting, Creative Lady

  6. "Wild" is a wonderful story and very well written. I was sobbing by the end of the first chapter, but don't let that stop you from picking up this wonderful book. It sets the stage for a meaningful, harrowing, funny and exciting adventure. Strayed writes completely from the heart in the most open and vulnerable way. She's funny, she's got depth and most of all, she's got that big open heart. Her adventure is remarkable and it's impossible to not imagine what you would do under similar circumstances. Highly recommend.