Saturday, March 22, 2014

Book Review: Wild by Cheryl Strayed

I'm always a fan of self discovery novels, so I thought this would be a nice addition to others I've read. Wild by Cheryl Strayed is the true account of a young woman in the 1990s who hikes over 1,100 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail all by herself. She had a tumultuous and confusing succession of years leading up to her journey. She loses her mom and then single handedly ends her marriage. These events lead to quite the spiral of bad decisions leading to drugs and one night stands. Cheryl doesn't really know why she does the things she does. She had no anchor in her life at all. One day she sees a guidebook of the Pacific Crest Trail and decides a lone backpacking trip would be a great opportunity to sort things out in her head and "find herself."

Cheryl's adventure is interesting to say the least. She acquires equipment for her hike over the course of about a year, but discovers how very unprepared she really is once the hike starts. She had never even gone on any form of backpacking trip before. She had not even assembled her pack until the night before her departure and soon finds out just how heavy basic and emergency supplies can be - a thought that never crossed her mind ahead of time. She spends the first leg of her journey hunched over under the weight of her pack, only able to pick it up if she sits down, straps it on her back, crawls onto her knees and then slowly stands. In spite of all this, she still hikes on - her pack wearing sores in her hips from the weight and her boots gradually causing 6 of her toe nails to fall off by the end. Some kind hikers along the way help her lighten her load and give her tips to improve and Cheryl eventually finds her stride.

Through all of her physical trials, Cheryl occasionally realizes that all the crap she actually started this journey to think about have not even crossed her mind. Toward the end she finally wraps her head mentally around her mother's death, but that's mostly it. She finds it strange that the actual physical act of walking is taking all of her attention, and she kind of heals her mind through this perseverance.

I enjoyed this story. It's definitely a different take to the "life lesson" genre, especially considering that it takes place in the 1990s  hippie culture (which was weird to read about, lol). The book is mostly just her tale of things that happened to her on this kind of remarkable feat. In the end, Cheryl finds her peace and finishes with a profound sense of accomplishment about beating the odds. Wild is a strange glimpse into the mind of a lost soul in this weird time and what she did to self heal. I give this book 4 out of 5 stars.

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