Wild by Cheryl Strayed

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I wasn’t interested in Wild for all the usual reason: Oprah book club pick, Eat Pray Love comparisons, too much hype. When a friend promised me it wasn’t EPL Part 2: Whine Harder, I went for it. My friend was right. There’s very little whining or moralizing here. It was a great read: well paced, good balance between main story and backstory, and not too maudlin. For a story that revolves around a young woman losing her mother to an aggressive cancer, it’d be easy to just yank on the heartstrings by Strayed does not.

I wondered why she waited nearly twenty years to tell this story but I’m glad she did. I think the time and distance helped shape the story into something approaching universal and Odyssey-like rather than a story of one twenty-something woman. I had to keep reminding myself that Strayed was only 26 when this all happened. A divorced 26 year old who’d lived all over the world, but still. Just a kid.

I read a few criticisms of the book (or, more likely, of Strayed herself) that she was woefully unprepared for her 1,000 mile hike, that she brought many of her problems on herself, that she didn’t fully explain the epiphany or whatever that happened at the end of her journey. To which I say: who cares? She fully addresses the fact that she was naive and unprepared. I, too, was shocked that she left with basically no money and no credit card. But as she says herself, had she been the type of person to consider all these details and risks, she never would have gone. And I don’t need a full explanation of what happened. I think the explanation is there, in little details throughout, and also not there, because the point is not to make the reader understand what it’s like to hike the Pacific Coast Trail. How could anyone accomplish that? Go do it yourself, if you must know.

What I’d really like to know is how that menstrual sponge thing worked. Seriously.

And I want to know why no book bloggers are doing a “Books Burned on the PCT” challenge. Google’s not giving me much, anyway. I cracked a huge smile when I got to the last two pages of this book because I’d been thinking about going back through and writing down all the books she mentions – but she’d already done it for me! I’ve read three (Lolita, As I Lay Dying, Dubliners) and would love to read The Ten Thousand Things (not pictured in my screen shot,) The Complete Stories of Flannery O’Conner, and Waiting for the Barbarians.

New year, new reading challenge?

Books read: 8

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3 responses to “Wild by Cheryl Strayed

  1. I didn’t want to read Wild either because it was an Oprah book club pick and just sounded like another memoir by a 40 something trying to change her life with a travel experience, but I was pleasantly surprised! And I read it shortly after hiking the four-day Inca Trail (and having done no training whatsoever for that gruelling hike, though it’s nothing of course like a multi-month hike!), so I could definitely relate to some of her hiking problems.

  2. Pingback: Booyah, Bookstravaganza! | Reading in Bed·

  3. I read Wild before it was an Oprah pick, and I’m glad I did, or I might have been affected by all the hype. I have heard a lot of people criticize it for various reasons, but I loved it. I thought it was brave and honest. And, despite all the pain and discomfort, it made me want to go hiking. Maybe someday… I will try to be more prepared, but what’s the fun in that?

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