Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail
Author: Cheryl Strayed
Book blurb: A powerful, blazingly honest memoir: the story of an eleven-hundred-mile solo hike that broke down a young woman reeling from catastrophe—and built her back up again.
At twenty-two, Cheryl Strayed thought she had lost everything. In the wake of her mother’s death, her family scattered and her own marriage was soon destroyed. Four years later, with nothing more to lose, she made the most impulsive decision of her life: to hike the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to Washington State—and to do it alone. She had no experience as a long-distance hiker, and the trail was little more than “an idea, vague and outlandish and full of promise.” But it was a promise of piecing back together a life that had come undone.
Review of the book:
I am finally done reading this book after procrastinating for more than a year. Last year I started reading this book and then gave up because I was not in a very good mood myself. And on top of that, more than 100 pages of this book was just whining and that kind of made me chuck it. But I am so glad I read it. It may not be the best book on PCT, but still I liked it.
This is definitely NOT the book to pick up, if you are looking for a book that talks about PCT in detail. This is also not a book to pick up if you are planning on hiking it yourself. Also this is not the book to read, if you want to read a happy book or if you are feeling down yourselves.
But what I did realize after reading the book is that hiking for such a long distance, especially when you are broke is not as simple as it sounds. I think I will never take my life for granted again.
This is mostly about Cheryl’s journey, more of a mental/emotional journey than the physical one. Initially I could not understand and relate to her grief and I really felt she was crazy. I mean, a sane person would never divorce a loving husband because her mother died. And a sane person would never hike the PCT all by themselves. But as I went through the book, I realized that she was not completely sane when she started hiking.
I could relate to her life a bit as I have seen my mother go through the same phase when she lost her mother at around the same age that Cheryl lost. It is not just about your mother dying, but it has to do with the way they die. Seeing your mother suffer from cancer day in and day out and silently praying that she doesn’t die can be torturous. It can mentally harm you in ways you won’t realize.
Not just that, an abusive father and a step father who cut his relations with them as soon as their mother died can lead to mental problems. She agrees that she was in need of professional help too. I feel she is an extremely brave woman and I wish I could be like her. She hiked eleven hundred miles alone on PCT being a woman. She was fortunate to have met many interesting people on her hike.
She overcame the problems in her life and is now probably leading a happy life. This book made me want to hike at least a part of the PCT someday. When the book started, it was basically about her complaining about her life, but it ended very well. After a point, I got so interested that I did not want to put the book down. But the first half is just whining. And that could discourage people from reading the second half, which was pretty good.
The only part about the book that I did not like was her attitude towards men. I mean, she was hitting on every single man she met. She was ready to sleep with any stranger she met on the trail. I just don’t get that.
Men taking advantage of women is something I can understand, as I have seen such men. It was a very dangerous decision on her part to hike alone. Anything could have happened to her. She was just lucky, as she mentions.
I hope more women don’t venture into such foolish hikes alone by getting inspired from this book. It can be really dangerous!
A good one time read. I am now looking forward to the movie releasing this year.
I loved these lines from the book:
“I never got to be in the driver’s seat of my own life,” she’s wept to me once… “I always did what someone else wanted me to do. I’ve always been someone’s daughter or mother or wife. I’ve never just been me.”
I will give this book 3.5 out of 5.
Some links I found interesting:
- 7 things that didn’t make it into wild
- Video: talking with Cheryl about her book
- Book club interview of Cheryl at Rumpus
- I read couple of posts from her column at Rumpus, where she wrote under the name “Dear Sugar”.
Thanks for the excellent review. I glad Cheryl completed her 1100 mile solo hike successfully. In the midst of all the personal tragedy and sufferings, she impulsively decided to go on a 1100 mile hike and that too solo? I do not think it is a wise decision.
Yeah it was definitely not a wise decision. After reading about the challenges that she faced on the hike, I am never going on a hike alone. 🙂
I wonder how authors manage to write travelogues with suspense and pace. I need to learn a lot in that front. In this case, the bizarre happenings in the trip might have helped write a good tale.
The decision to hike solo, though it seems impulsive, may not be all that unplanned/unneeded. Probably she was suffering more in the city and wanted to get rid of her baggage and hence decided to go on a challenging trek like this. Besides, people learn a lot when put into difficult situations like this.
She met lot of people on her hike, so she got to write more chapters about other people and what conversations she had with them etc.
She did plan quite a bit for the hike, but lot of things were unplanned from her side. Mainly regarding money matters. She underestimated the expense and had a tough time because of that.
Even I feel the hike was in a way good for her, since all the time she was hiking she did not think about her mother and cry.
Liked the last lines you quoted..that could be the fantasy of many women, me too..but going alone anywhere like that is not possible ..for many, but then thats the reason they are not the subject of any novel.
That’s true Renu. Even I cannot think about doing something like what she did. I am definitely not brave enough to hike alone for such a long distance.
PCT is awesome. We have an access point from the snoqualmie pass mountains here. Murali and I hiked about an hour on it then, somehow we didn’t see any serious hikers then. But I heard a lot about it.
Journey sounds very inspiring. Travelling alone is a challenge with no hard core experience. I am glad the story ended well. 🙂
oh yeah PCT crosses very close to Seattle that way. Here I guess I will have to go to Lake Tahoe to hike PCT. That’s probably the closest point. Should try hiking at least some part of it.
Sounds like a nice book, but I am still reading the previous set of books you reviewed and i am loving it! 😀 I’ll don’t know if i wanna read this one..but i can now give me expert feedback when people ask me about it 😀 😛 😛 Thanks to you!
Very happy to know that you liked the other books that I have reviewed earlier. Which ones are you reading Mi?
You can give this book a skip though. It was not really that good.
I started with first book of “A song of Fire and Ice” series! 🙂 Your reviewed pushed me to take it up! 🙂
oh nice. I am really happy to know that you are liking the series. 🙂
I don’t think this will be my style of book. I like travelogues. I read a really nice one by Bill Bryson on the Appalachian trail and loved it. This one sounds sad.
I got this book thinking it will be a travelogue. Even I like the Bill Bryson book. I can say 50% of the book was whining and the other 50% talks about the trail and is little bit interesting. Only bit I did like was that she talks about all the difficulties one can face when they hike alone.
I would have never picked this book to read, but your review has piqued my interest! Will check it out sometimes soon 🙂
I would not say this book is very good, but I feel it is worth reading once. It was interesting to know how she survived on her own in the wild.
Hopping over from the Nonfiction Reading Challenge.
Interesting. I may just wait for the movie!
Thank you 🙂 I hope the movie is good and we get to catch some glimpses of the Pacific crest trail. I am really waiting for the movie.