Cheryl Strayed's memoir Wild is exactly the type of book that appeals to me. I love stories of people setting off on adventures and I also feel connected to stories of grief and attempts to find a place in the world.
After her mother's death, Strayed found herself in her early twenties and falling apart. Her once close-knit family took an isolationist approach to grief and grew distant. Strayed dropped out of college just shy of graduation, cheated on her husband and turned to heroin. She found a guide-book to backpacking the Pacific Crest Trail, a trail that stretches from Mexico to Canada and although inexperienced, decided to give it a shot.
Strayed saved money from waitressing jobs, bought what she thought was proper gear and planned ahead, parceling out money and supplies sent ahead to post offices along the route. She decided to spend a few months along the trail from Death Valley, California to Portland Oregon. Strayed soon learned all of the book information and hiking tips from REI, did not adequately prepare her for this journey.
The brilliance in this memoir is Strayed ability to write about her life in a way that is so relatable. She exposes herself, warts and all, and her vulnerability makes her so likeable. It made me root for her to succeed on her journey, even though she has made some monumental mistakes in her life. She doesn't gloss over the spousal cheating and drug use. She doesn't make excuses or ask the reader to forgive her. She just exposes herself and it makes the reader accept her past, but love her for the person that she will become, as we get to be part of watching the transformation.
This book is exciting. It's filled with plenty of action and tense moments, as the trail is a harsh place and Strayed is definitely unprepared. Besides Strayed's story, the book is interesting because it exposes a subset of society, those who backpack on these trails. It's a culture and it's fascinating. Strayed makes plenty of friends on her adventure and each has an interesting story of why they are on the PCT. The PCT is its own character that's constantly changing and filled with surprises.
Strayed's memoir is rooted in grief and is very healing. It made me cry, in several places. I had been reading it during my lunch breaks at work, but found it to be so emotional, that I finished it in the privacy of my home. The emotional passages hit me like a ton of bricks and were hard to predict where they would fall in the book. They are profound and sprinkled throughout. Strayed is very self-aware and has a knack for keen observations often leading to profound statements.
This book is a must read.