Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail (Oprah's Book Club 2.0)

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail (Oprah's Book Club 2.0) - Check out this review and others like it at BadAssBookReviewsWild is getting quite a bit of national buzz, my local friends have been pushing me to read it and as a result, I resisted starting this book. Reading Wild was a combination of a fuzzy walk down a specific memory lane of my early to mid-twenties and a current wish fulfillment fantasy. Author Cheryl Strayed is a few years older than me, her memoir is focused on her childhood, her teen years, her college aged time period and then her mid-twenties. Because of this shared timing in our age, the context and atmosphere that Cheryl wrote about seemed to be a shared memory for me … to a certain extent anyway. In 1995, Cheryl hiked 1,100 miles on the Pacific Crest Trail. Let’s stop and think about that – Cheryl hiked 1100 miles on her own, with her feet – walking. She was 26 years old, she was alone, inexperienced, unprepared and depressed. Reeling and suffering from the unexpected death of her mother, surviving in a marriage that she was too young to make work and fighting a growing addiction to sex and heroin, Ms. Strayed sets out to change her life. She did this without access to money or a support network. At first glance, Wild appears to be in the same genre or category as Eat Love Pray. After all, is this not about a women’s journey to become more centered and straighten her life out? But it is not the same story nor is it the same journey. Wild is everything that Eat Love Pray hoped to be, wanted to be and could not be. Wild is a woman struggling economically to overcome her demons and depression. Cheryl grew up raised by a single mother of three children who had escaped a violent relationship. Her mother could be described as counter-culture and before her time. She bought rural land in Minnesota and set up a sort of mini farm and rustic retreat, with very little funds and amenities. Despite the title (From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail), the book does not take place entirely on hiking trail – as I expected that it would. Cheryl gives context to who she is, talking about her childhood, her relationship with her mother, her mother’s cancer diagnosis and quick decline, Cheryl’s disintegrating relationship with her siblings and step-father after her mother’s death, and discussing her youthful marriage. Cheryl spent the majority of her life outside the mainstream, at first not by choice but eventually by her own choosing. After her mother passes away, Cheryl is 22 and alone. She waits tables, does heroin and inexplicably cheats on a loving husband by repeatedly seeking out the attention of men. Cheryl paints an unsympathetic picture of a girl who is lost, sad and lonely despite having the support of a young husband who appears to be her best friend. But ultimately, it becomes obvious that he is too young and experienced to give her the help she needs and she is drifting and depressed. During the telling of this tale, Ms. Strayed is harshly critical in her portrayal of her younger self and lovingly paints an image of her young husband. In a way, the story is a tribute to those that loved Cheryl – to her mother and to her young husband. Aware that her life is going nowhere, Cheryl seizes on the idea of traveling across the country to hike an impossible sounding trail that spans thousands of miles. Unprepared but inspired, she prepares boxes of equipment and food to be sent to her along her hike and she sets out. Her backpack is too heavy, her hiking shoes are too tight and she is alone. Perhaps, it seems impossible that she could succeed; but her past life living without most Americans take for granted, living rustically and suffering give her the basic skills to survive on the trail. This book resonated with me and kept me thinking about the trail, nature and self-discovery for long after I read it. Cheryl endured the seemingly impossible – hunger, losing toenails, bleeding feet, hiking through snow in shorts, and the solitude of the woods for days and weeks on end. But the image of her pushing her body to its absolute limit and discovering herself is absolutely inspiring. Along the trail in 1995, Cheryl meets other hikers and develops relationships; at exit points along the trail, she meets other counter-culture individuals that were so familiar to me, I felt like I could reach out and touch them. She paints life outside of the mainstream during the early to mid-1990s accurately – and achingly nostalgic. Wild is a book for people who wonder – what am I capable of? Or for people who wonder – why do I hurt those that I love? Wild is for people who have lost someone they love and struggle to move past this loss. And Wild is just a great story about a girl who was lost and found a way to transform herself into a woman.