Book Review: Wild

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Title: Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail

Author: Cheryl Strayed

Genre: Non-Fiction, Autobiography

Rating: 5 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

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. With no experience or training, driven only by blind will, she would hike more than a thousand miles of the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to Washington State — and she would do it alone.

Told with suspense and style, sparkling with warmth and humor, Wild powerfully captures the terrors and pleasures of one young woman forging ahead against all odds on a journey that maddened, strengthened, and ultimately healed her.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

What an amazing, wonderful, and strange journey I have just been on. Wild by Cheryl Strayed isn’t a book I’d normally pick up. Honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever read an entire biography in my life—on anyone. Ever. So why did I pick up this book? I happened upon a trailer for the movie, and I thought “I need to see that.”… and I did. Immediately before I read the book, I watched the movie—and I’m glad that I did for a lot of reasons.

Wild is the true story and memoir of Cheryl Strayed, a woman who, when she was 22, went on a self-discovery hike along the Pacific Crest Trail in order to find herself. She walked over 1,100 miles (give or take a few) from the Mojave Desert all the way up to the border of Washington and the Bridge of the Gods. The reason this story intrigued me is that it sounds like something I’ve always wanted to do. I grew up in Oregon, hiking, camping, hunting, and enjoying the outdoors. I’ve been to a lot of the same places that Cheryl went on her journey—and I was intrigued to find out what she may have learned along the way. Like Cheryl, I too lost my mother to cancer at a young age (though I was just a teen), and I couldn’t help but identify with some of the commonalities between our lives as I read through her journey.

It’s difficult for me to quantify this story in the way that I normally would in a review. Normally I’d pick apart the language, sentence structure, characters, and world building. I can’t do that here. Cheryl Strayed is a real person, and the events of the story really happened. It would be insulting to try and quantify this story on any sort of literary level. So instead, I’ll say this: Thank you.

This book took me two days to read—which is longer than most books take me. The story delved into aspects of life that I try to avoid in fictional stories… drugs, promiscuity, death, abandonment… but I’m infinitesimally grateful that I read this story. When the last page was finished and Cheryl’s hike came to a close, I felt like I too had been on an amazing journey. Wild made me think. It made me consider the importance of life and the people in it—of who all of us are once we strip away the needless things of our daily lives.

There were some differences between the movie and the book. I felt a lot of the original printed story was cut out for the movie, and some details were definitely altered and re-arranged for the cinematic screen, but deep down, the story at its core was the same. Honestly, I’m not sure how I would have felt about the movie or the book had I not seen/read both. The movie wasn’t particularly engaging, and neither was the book… but I couldn’t help but be drawn into the story anyhow. Watching the movie ahead of time made it easy for me to visualize the landscapes, people, and events that occurred in the book, and I think because of that, it made the book easier to read in a way.

Overall, I loved the book. It’s a weird thing to say because the book failed at every turn if I were to compare it to the fiction I normally read. The writing wasn’t particularly engaging or fluid. The main character wasn’t particularly sassy or endearing, and the plot? What plot? This was a true story—it didn’t need a plot. I can’t rate this book on the same scale I’d normally use to decide if a book was “good”—but oh, how it was. When the story was over I was left with a feeling of wonder and joy. I am so very glad that I read it.

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