sarah gilbert's Reviews > Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail

Wild by Cheryl Strayed
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Mar 18, 12

bookshelves: writers-i-know, memoir-class-excavation
Read from March 07 to 14, 2012

I have thought these things: I am done with books proclaiming to tell the story of healing when the wounds are so obviously still raw. I am done with struggles-that-are-not-really-struggles, the so-called "first world problems" that make one's eyes roll and ones jaw clench. How did she get so much buzz for this terribly whiny book? I'll ask myself, barely able to get through the first third without hucking it across the room. I thank other reviewers for making the contrast between Eat, Pray, Love and Wild. I'd include a few other books written, I thought, in the rush of loss or certainty-of-wisdom that were not, indeed, wise: An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination is one that immediately comes to mind. There are others.

I read this book despite all these things, and because I have never been steered wrong by Cheryl before (we're friends, and I've read most of her public writing, including about half of her Dear Sugar columns). I read this book hoping to be proven right in my faith in her and wrong in my worry it would not go well, this struggle-against-the-wilderness, this wisdom-discovery.

Indeed. I was proven right and wrong in all the best ways. Wild is a luminous exception. It is a story of birth more than it is a story of death (though her mother's death a few years earlier is the centerpiece of the book); it is a story of joy more than it is a story of pain (though pain is on almost every page, rippling, fleshy, scarring pain). I skated through it, flipped, plodded, ran, like Cheryl, wanting to rush but then holding back and making sure I read it closely enough to render an informed review.

When you begin, when you join Cheryl on this improbable hike, of course, you expect her ill preparation and her constant desire to give up and many, many complaints. But she does not give up, she stubbornly struggles through, and even I think many times oh, you'd be best to quit right now... but you know that she will not and you are so proud. You are along for the fight, Monster and all. You wish you could float down on a feather with another $20 or a better pair of boots. You wish you could sit her down a few months before her hike and plan out a schedule of training hikes. But you can't, so instead, you begin to imagine your own hike and you are searingly jealous of her 12-hour-days of loneliness and thought. How much I would think in that time, you think. Oh how I could use that right now.

I got it, though; through her voice and eyes I have hiked the trail without the right-sized boots and with a pack far too heavy to imagine. I do not have to leave my boys with their aunt for months while I find myself; I have found myself on the trail with her, there, in the burning heat and the shivering cold, sweaty and wondrous and stinky and limping and profound. How wild it is.

Finally, a disclaimer. Very probably, if I did not know Cheryl I would find quibbles enough with this book to knock my five stars down to four. I don't like to just gush around giving five stars to things, even very good things, because how can one write a perfect book? No. This isn't perfect. But, I am going to invoke my license to be biased, this time.
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Reading Progress

03/07/2012 page 38
11.0% "reading this in the context of having read 'Torch' -- and knowing a little about what parts of that story are more reflective of truth, and which are not -- not to mention having heard Cheryl talk this past week a little about the work of this novel, what was left out -- has me treasuring it even more. This will be a slower read than normal, as I watch it all unfold with great light and sorrow, too."
03/08/2012 page 66
20.0% "It's so hard to read this at times -- as Cheryl ever more firmly self-destructs -- that I am so glad to know her now, know that she has healed, that her subtitle is true."
03/10/2012 page 90
27.0% "I love how Cheryl evokes the feelings I've had on long bike rides or extremely long runs -- how one's internal voice takes off, riffs, focuses in on random lines from songs or poems. and this: "The heat was so intense that my memory of it is not so much a sensations as a sound, a whine that rose to a dissonant keen with my head at its very center." visceral! evocative! and all that stuff!"
03/12/2012 page 160
48.0% "the lady. at the campground. with the raccoon sweater! I want to hunt her down and give her a piece of my mind. and all the parts with the bathtub at that motel in Sierra City. oh, how familiar this all is, in other contexts. and 'The Novel'! now I want to read it..."
03/13/2012 page 227
68.0% "Ooh, the boots. Everything about this book makes me want to hike the trail, but the boots. I don't know if it's possible to express how painful it must be to lose toenails and have to wrap one's feet in duct tape each day... but Cheryl paints a picture that makes it sound roughly equivalent to torture."
03/14/2012 page 265
79.0% "I thought I'd be upset when and if Cheryl had sex... she's not ready! but it ended up being so sweet. I wonder where Jonathan is now..."
03/14/2012 page 336
100.0% "oh! the ending! i read when woken up by my boys -- they couldn't sleep, they cried, they kicked -- and *almost* finished it. I'll save it to the morning, I thought. but I tossed and turned, unable to sleep for thinking about the hike, the book, the last few pages. I got up, hungry, and ate chocolate bread while I read -- and cried through -- the last pages. What a beautiful book. What a beautiful book!"

Comments (showing 1-6 of 6) (6 new)

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message 1: by Moira (new) - added it

Moira Russell Dude! Did you see THIS? Check out the AMAZING picture of her on the PCT. http://www.oregonlive.com/books/index...


message 2: by [deleted user] (new)

I downloaded this on a whim after seeing someplace that it is the first Oprah 's book club 2.0 book. Even though I don't. know anything about Cheryl other than whatshe shared here, I am grateful she let us join her on her journey.


message 3: by Val (new)

Val I think Jerry Springer has lowered the bar in our society.


Rosemary Sarah, I like the honesty of your review. I'm a little more than halfway through the book now, and I've had some of the same thoughts you had. What keeps me going is the interview I saw with Cheryl and Oprah (that's how I found out about the book). I was so impressed by their conversation, and so fortunate to see what sort of person Cheryl has become. I read excerpts from the book on Amazon and started talking to people at work about it. I discovered that two of my co-workers had read the book and were quite enthusiastic about it (one is an avid backpacker/camper). One of them lent me her copy, so I'm now happily engaged in reading Wild myself. It will be no problem for me to finish the book and I'll probably be giving it a good rating.


message 5: by Derek (new)

Derek  Cummings Beverly, where is your proof that she lied?


Betsy totally agree. Eat Love Pray at least had the Happy Days in Italy!


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