Cheryl Strayed’s book Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail has been on my reading list since Oprah selected it for her revamped book club.
At 26 Cheryl Strayed was by her own admission a mess. She had lost her mother to cancer, was divorced from her young husband, dating a junkie and on her way to becoming an addict herself. Feeling lost she quits her waitressing job and sets out to hike the Pacific Crest Trail. The purpose for her journey according to Cheryl:
I had to change. I had to change was the thought that drove me in those months of planning. Not into a different person, but back to the person I used to be – strong and responsible, clear-eyed and driven, ethical and good. And the PCT would make me that way. There, I’d walk and think about my entire life. I’d find my strength again, far from everything that had made my life ridiculous. (pg. 57)What better book to read for my Be Strong reading project - a reading challenge I created for myself to read one book about strength each month.
I am glad I read Cheryl Strayed’s book Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar, a book I had loved, prior to reading this one. If I hadn’t already been familiar with Cheryl’s work I doubt I'd have finished this book. I found Cheryl’s lack of adequate preparation for her hike (no backpacking experience to speak of, too heavy of a pack, one-size too small shoes, not enough money, etc.) irresponsible and dangerous. Also, I kept comparing this book to Bill Bryson’s book A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail about hiking the Appalachian Trail which I found funnier and thought he did a better job of actually writing about the trail. Once I stopped judging Cheryl and accepted this book for what it was – Cheryl’s journey - I began enjoying it. I realized Cheryl’s writing is just as beautiful as it was in Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar and I had to give her credit; she was no quitter. She achieves both her goals to hike the Pacific Crest Trail and to find her strength.
Here are a couple of my favorite quotes from the book:
The father's job is to teach his children how to be warriors, to give them the confidence to get on the horse to ride into battle when it's necessary to do so. If you don't get that from your father, you have to teach yourself.And:
What if I forgave myself? I thought. What if I forgave myself even though I'd done something I shouldn't have? What if I was a liar and a cheat and there was no excuse for what I'd done other than because it was what I wanted and needed to do?...What if I was never redeemed? What if I already was?Also, there is an excellent scene in the book where Cheryl uses the intuition skills Gavin de Becker writes about in his book The Gift of Fear and Other Survival Signals that Protect Us From Violence. When approached by a suspicious pair of hunters on the trail and though tired and hungry Cheryl runs ‘til she can’t run anymore out of fear one of them will come back to find her.
If you are looking for a well-written memoir about a lost soul who embarks on a journey to find herself along the PCT this is a good book for you. If you are looking for a book about the trail itself, a professional guide to backpacking or a book about getting back to nature you probably will not enjoy this book.
Have you read this book? If so, what were your thoughts?
If you enjoyed this book you may also like:
Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Life and Love From Dear Sugar
How Did You Get Into Nonfiction?
Nonfiction You Can't Put Down
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