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Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail

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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.

318 pages, Kindle Edition

First published March 20, 2012

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About the author

Cheryl Strayed

36 books12.4k followers
Cheryl Strayed is the author of four books: Tiny Beautiful Things, Torch, Brave Enough, and the #1 New York Times bestseller, Wild. She's also the author of the popular Dear Sugar Letters, currently on Substack and the host of two hit podcasts--Sugar Calling and Dear Sugars. You can find links to her events and answers to FAQ on her web site: http://www.cherylstrayed.com/

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5 stars
290,199 (37%)
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3 stars
138,646 (18%)
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 45,785 reviews
Profile Image for Libbie Hawker (L.M. Ironside).
Author 7 books293 followers
April 4, 2014
EDIT 4/4/2014: I changed this from two stars to one, because I realized that it's been about two years since I read this book and I still get ragey and fist-shakey just thinking about how much it sucked. So, bonus star deducted. This book sucks on wheels. Read on for more...

Okay. I gave myself plenty of time to cool off before writing this review, because man, was I ever pissed at this book by the time I finished reading it. And I really wanted to love it! I'm a backpacker, and I've often fantasized about doing the PCT solo (a pretty stupid idea for anybody who's not much more experienced than I am.) I was excited about a memoir of one woman's experience on the trail. I dug into this book eagerly, but within a few chapters my enthusiasm began to deflate, and by the end I was basically doing this at every other paragraph:

After some cooling-off time, I gave it what I feel is a very generous two stars. That bonus star is for the first couple of chapters, which do in fact pull a person in, and which do share some impressive openness on the author's part. I was particularly impressed with her ability to share her weird dreams about killing her mother, which were raw and real and touching and disturbing. Also, the scene where she recalls how was particularly affecting. Otherwise, this book just doesn't have all that much to offer. Cheryl Strayed's life doesn't, so far, have an unusual amount of sadness or tragedy or inspiring moments -- the kind of things that make for good memoir reading. Or if her life does contain those things, she's not a good enough writer to make the reader feel it.

Brief rundown: Strayed lost a loving parent with whom she had a great relationship, and had a very difficult time accepting that loss. Not particularly different from the experiences of many people I've met. As a result of her grief, she lost all impulse control and sabotaged her marriage to a really wonderful man, then started using heroin. Okay, that's a little more interesting, but unfortunately the full impact of these momentous choices is lost in an unblazed forest of vague, unremarkable prose and confused chronology, making it hard to give a damn. At the nadir of her downward spiral, she hears about the PCT and just decides to hike it, which is not surprising, I guess, since she's proudly established that she suffers from a total lack of impulse control (a condition she never really seems to try to correct throughout the course of the book.)

So hike it she does, all unprepared, derping off into the wilderness, as is par for the course, apparently. She can't even be assed to read the essential (and very short, I might add) book Staying Found: The Complete Map and Compass Handbook, an absolute essential for anybody who determines to walk off into the wilderness and survive by whatever she can carry on her back. Oh, she bothered to buy the book, but she neglected to read even a page of it on the flight from Minnesota or wherever she's from to southern California, although she brought it on board the plane intending to educate herself BEFORE she began her blissed-out hippie walkabout. But I guess, hey, free peanuts and a bad Adam Sandler movie, so....

If you're getting the impression from the review that this memoir fails mostly because Strayed just doesn't make herself a very sympathetic character, you're getting the right idea. But it gets worse. Once she actually gets the high of hiking (under the weight of a pack HALF HER BODY WEIGHT, for god's sake) the book becomes Mary Sue Goes on a Nature Walk.

Everybody -- yes, literally everybody except the gay guy and a couple of women wants to have sex with her. She is that irresistible, all hairy and smelling like a sasquatch and hobbling from miles of carrying half her body weight. All the men she meets eye her appraisingly. Most of them hit on her and ask her out for dinner and drinks (wait...dinner and drinks on the Pacific Crest Trail? Yes, more on that later.) One of them actually does seduce her with the erotic power of his Wilco t-shirt. But the one message she clearly wants you to take away from her allegedly inspiring story of a complete personal transformation on the PCT is that the author is preternaturally sexy, and virtually nothing with a penis can resist her. Strayed's relentless hotness actually becomes such a prevalent theme that I began laughing out loud each time she described yet another man expressing his interest in her hot hiker self. I laughed a lot, O Reader. I laughed a lot.

Don't worry; those people she met who didn't want to stick their trekking poles into her worshiped her for other reasons. Every single person she met except for some Totally Grumpy Old Camp Hosts and a couple creepy hunters (who still wanted to have sex with her) couldn't stop telling her how amazing and wonderful she was for hiking the PCT alone. Without any knowledge of how to survive in the wilderness. Everyone said things to reinforce her belief that she was a "badass motherfucking Amazonian queen." Hooray! The world is your oyster, 'cause that's all the world is!

How did she meet so many people hiking one of the least-trammeled of the world-famous trails on the continent? Well, Strayed actually didn't hike all that much of the trail. She started well north of the Mexican border and had to take a Greyhound around most of the High Sierras, because it was socked in that year and she was unprepared for snow hiking, as she was for most other contingencies. (She got rid of her ice axe after crossing one small snowfield, figuring she wouldn't need it again, y'know, where the elevation got higher. Jesus Christ. Not that she really knew how to use an ice axe anyway.) Her intent was to do only the California stretch, not the entire trail, though she did extend the trip through Oregon after she found out about the impassability of the trail (another thing she should have checked on before she started walking.) So she motored through a good 400+ miles of her "hike," and left the trail for various reasons at various points to hitch-hike instead. Thus, she ended up with a lot of non-hiker people in a lot of non-hiking situations, making this more a memoir of disjointed hippie travel-by-any-means than a memoir of HIKING THE EFFING PCT, as all bookbuyers were led to believe.

The parts of the book that actually DID take place on the Trail were interrupted by flashbacks to her life with her mother or the destruction of her marriage or her experimentation with heroin or the fallout from these events. So much so, as soon as she began actually talking about the Trail again, I knew to brace myself for yet another forced emotional flashback to the ordinary tragedy of Strayed's typical American life.

Now, in spite of the choking Mary Sueism of the author's self-depiction, I could forgive her utter dumbness in wandering onto the PCT unprepared if she actually learned anything about what a bad idea it is to wander into the wilderness unprepared. If her unpreparedness for the PCT taught her how to be a better person, more aware, more focused, more capable, more responsible, more honest about herself, GREAT. Bring on the stupidity. I like a good redemption tale. But it didn't. It didn't! If it did, those passages were lost in editing, or were never written at all. The book's big climax involves Strayed eating a peach in a grove of azaleas, and it's all very pretty and a deer walks into the clearing, and she realizes that

But even that...even that I could forgive if the writing were good. I will forgive anything for gorgeous writing. My favorite book of all time is Lolita, and I can forgive the existence of a fictional character like Humbert Humbert because, damn, have you ever read Lolita? (Strayed has, at least once, and apparently learned nothing about the value of lovely writing.)

But the writing in Wild is, if you will forgive the pun, pedestrian at best. I suppose it's serviceable enough for a general memoir of an American woman having a typical American experience of loss and confusion and coming to accept her past. But for describing nature? Ugh. I wasn't expecting "Annie Dillard hefts a Kelty" from this book, but one would think that a book which alleges to focus on the great transforming power wilderness would at least give a little time or effort to, you know, wilderness. Miles and miles of trail are dismissed in the tritest and most cliche of short sentences, and as far as describing action, Strayed often resorts to such apprentice work as "we kissed and kissed and kissed"; "I walked and walked and walked"; "I cried and cried and cried." I yawned and yawned and yawned. I raged and raged and raged. The most vivid scene of actual trail action I can recall is where she falls asleep beside a muddy tarn and wakes to the feel of frogs hopping all over her body. The rest of the prose fell utterly flat, particularly in scenes involving nature. What a crashing disappointment. And what a rip-off, since readers are buying this book expecting to read about the experience of walking the PCT. And there is virtually none of that here.

It's no surprise to me that this book was selected for Oprah's Book Club (2.0, no less!) Oprah's selections have become, over the years, increasingly vapid and serving only the "rah-rah, you go girl" branding of the Club. I remember, long ago in a distant past, when she actually chose books that had good writing and fascinating characters. I should have been warned off by the fact that this book was picked, but I wanted so, so badly to read a well-written memoir about the enchantment of backpacking, about the way the strife and the loneliness and the rawness of nature pull the packer into another realm of existence, where life is fragile and valuable, where the sky and the earth and the line of the trail itself live, and by turns cradle and sustain the hiker and try and reject her. Instead, I got "gee, my feet hurt."

The great American memoir of the PCT still remains to be written. I'm sad that it's not already here, that I don't get to read it. I'm elated that maybe I'll yet have the chance to accomplish what this book didn't accomplish. Maybe I'll get a chance to write it. I'm already planning my own trip from Mexico to Canada. (Not solo, though. That's just dumb.) Who knows.
Profile Image for Jeanette (Ms. Feisty).
2,179 reviews1,946 followers
July 22, 2016
3.5 stars

What kind of dimwit would decide to backpack the Pacific Crest Trail alone with zero backpacking experience? Apparently the same kind of dimwit who would try heroin just because the stranger she spent the night with happens to need a fix.

If you can tolerate essence of dingbat and overlook her lousy choices and even lousier excuses for those choices, this is actually an enjoyable read. You have to roll your eyes a lot while working to the point where she hits the trail, but after that it's quite engaging. I admire her tenacity in finishing what she started, given her cluelessness about backpacking that led to serious mistakes and potentially dangerous miscalculations. If you've never backpacked before, use this as a cautionary tale rather than an excuse to be a ditz. Many people with more backpacking savvy than Cheryl have lost their lives through poor planning or just bad luck.

The thing that saves this book is that Cheryl writes well. If I can say without unkindness that there's a certain charm in her idiocy, this is what makes her story worth reading. And if you have any backpacking stories of your own, you'll connect with so many of the little things that define the worldwide community of backpackers.
Profile Image for Amanda Hicks.
6 reviews32 followers
April 18, 2012
I have read a great many criticisms of this book by people who either expected it to be solely about the PCT itself, or were offended by the author's use of coarse language and discussion of her sexual proclivities. And that's fine; all of those readers were obviously seeking something other than what this book had to provide. Myself, I enjoyed it from cover to cover. A longtime lover of the PCT, I already know about the trail from end to end. I was more interested in how the author used a rather spontaneous journey along the trail to help herself face demons and come to grips with her mother's death. There are moments where her emotions are so clearly spelled out on the page, and then there are times where you have to read between the lines. But every step of the way you're alongside her, watching as she learns to accept, to embrace, to let go, and how the PCT weaves through that.

This is a book I will most definitely read multiple times over the years. I almost regret buying it in Kindle format because I can think of at least five people I'd love to loan it to and demand they read it immediately.
Profile Image for Jackie.
18 reviews67 followers
September 14, 2012
I finished this book a couple of days ago, and have not been able to get it out of my mind. I was happily coming to Goodreads to give my glowing review, but was pretty annoyed at a few of the recent reviews, so I wanted to address that first. The bravery and honesty that flowed from those pages touched me deep into my soul, and to see her described as dimwitted and self absorbed is insulting to the author and to those of us who were moved by her story. If you want to read about a well planned trip by a prepared hiker who has no issues, go and buy a guide book about hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. I'm sure you'll find it very informative.

'Wild' is a beautifully descriptive story about loss, pain, nearly giving up, and pushing on. I felt like I was right there next to Cheryl, my pack so heavy, my feet bleeding and sore, filthy, hungry and lonely. I couldn't believe she kept going, but also would have been crushed if she hadn't. I loved every moment of this book and am just blown away by the author's audacity and courage. I will probably never be able to go three months in the wild, but I sure loved living vicariously through Cheryl in her 'Wild.'

Profile Image for Cathy.
124 reviews
December 3, 2013
A self-absorbed, ill-prepared woman, 26 years old, leaves her husband (a decent guy) for no good reason, mucks her life up even further with drugs and reckless sex, then engages in some vacuous navel-gazing on the Pacific Crest Trail. As a woman hiking alone she gets all kinds of special treatment and help from fellow hikers. She loses a few pounds, gets some muscles and some sun-bleached hair and calls her work done.
Profile Image for Miranda Reads.
1,589 reviews157k followers
December 10, 2020
Alternate title: How to be a Compete Idiot: Hiking Edition

Cheryl goes off on a bender shortly after her mother passes.

She ruins her marriage with repeated adultery and ultimately becoming a knocked-up druggie. Then she aborts the kid and goes hiking.

Yes, you read that right.

She gets on the Pacific Crest Trail as a way to find herself. By getting lost. Oh the irony.

Many, many inspirational quotes have been posted and shared throughout the web thus I will share the two that stood out to me most:

The first one is found during her mother's stay in the hospital and requests for morphine from the male nurse.
Sometimes he gave it to her without a word and sometimes he said no in a voice as soft as his penis
Frequently, Cheryl paused the narrative to admire masculine men that she met on the trail or remembered screwing with while married to her husband.

This nurse had the unfortunate fashion choice to wear scrubs a little too tight while he was tending her mother (on her death bed).

It felt so wrong on so many levels

The other quote that stood out to me was during a female-empowerment moment.

During which she recalls the control she has over men, despite being dirty, bedraggled and stinky. She is a woman.
When i was a child of eleven and I felt that prickly rush of power when grown men would turn their heads to look at me, or whisper, or say, "hey pretty baby," just loudly enough that I could hear.
Why. Just. Why.

She's constantly getting lost, never has the right gear and always is in pain...I wanted to shake her. So much.

Despite going into gory detail about losing her toenails, developing welts and bruises, she plays off being extremely ill-prepared and dumb by jokingly calling herself:
A big fat idiot
This book tried to make her journey into a positive experience by showing just how much everyone admired and appreciated the work she put into hiking. It was ridiculous.

They all treated her kindly - like a badass princess. *coughcough* Mary Sue

I'm glad I read this solely so I could squash my curiosity.

Audiobook Comments
She did not narrate her own autobiography. Pet. Peeve.

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Profile Image for Emily May.
1,993 reviews298k followers
June 13, 2016
“The universe, I'd learned, was never, ever kidding. It would take whatever it wanted and it would never give it back.”

Wild is easily one of the best memoirs I've ever read. For two main reasons.

1) It is extremely well-written. This book doesn't have that feeling which non-fiction books often give me - a feeling that I'm stuck in the dreary real world and that I should have read some exciting fiction instead. It reads like a novel. A novel about grief, and youth, and adventure. It's full of memorable characters, drawn so vividly by the author. And it proves that true stories can be no less compelling than the most creative fantasy.

2) Strayed captures the emotions of a young woman who has lost her anchor in life so very well. It's one thing to feel a certain way at times in your life, but it's another thing entirely to be able to find the words to accurately portray how that felt to others.

Her story is brimming with raw, visceral emotion. Perhaps it is made more poignant to me because I have a somewhat similar relationship with my mum and the thought of losing her is not only unbearable, but completely beyond my comprehension - how can I possibly exist in a world where she doesn't? She and her love are the single reliable constants I've had throughout my life.

But beyond that, my mother - like Cheryl's - has made me and my siblings the centre of her entire life and purpose. She lives and breathes for us. She has made mistakes and we have had fights. Angry, raging fights that would easily have destroyed a weaker bond. And yet, I have never been more certain of anything than her unconditional love and her desire for my happiness.

Strayed's shared emotions pulled out some deep ones of my own.

Beyond the emotional pull of the novel, it is an adventure story that takes us through all the highs and lows of the wilderness. Interspersed with little anecdotes about the author's life before hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, it shows everything that Strayed faces in her struggle to sort her life out. Everything from bears, rattlesnakes and other people, to dehydration, destroyed feet and the realization that she had not planned her trip very well.

Many times she considers giving up, and yet she pushes on. It's uplifting, and yet the messages avoid being heavy-handed because they are surrounded by so much story and adventure. An easy-to-read, enjoyable book, that is the perfect balance of sadness and hope.

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Profile Image for Nancy.
358 reviews34 followers
January 6, 2013
In some reviews, Strayed has been criticized for a number of things. Unpreparedness for the Pacific Crest Trail, risky decisions and miscalculations, as well as reckless living - poor choices in coping with a broken life. Her real father was unstable, abusive and essentially absent. Her mother was quirky. She couldn't provide the basic material comforts of the middle class. On the other hand, her unconventional behaviors are exactly what gave Cheryl her independent, survivor spirit. Her mother died in her mid-forties and the threads of what little family Cheryl had disintegrated. Married to a perfectly good man, but wed very young, in her grief, she eventually resorted to heroine abuse and promiscuity.

I think those readers are missing the point. This is not a how-to book. Although there are some brief informative sections about the history and development of the PCT, as well as fleeting references to equipment. It is not a back to nature book. She writes picturesque but unsentimental descriptions. It is not a self-help book. She's not espousing any means to self discovery. It is a eloquent story of how one rather mixed up young woman used this journey. Alone, she is able to dig deep into her past and her fears. There comes a point in everyone's life when we have to forgive our own mistakes and accept how they define us. The struggles along the trail gave her the strength and clarity to face who she really is and what she is capable of. It resonated with me. After having taken a road trip in the mid 70's, from Minneapolis, to Whitehorse Yukon Territories, back through Edmonton, across the Rockies to Vancouver and down Route 1 to San Diego before going home. The experiences most definitely frame who I am.
Profile Image for Rachel.
5 reviews10 followers
March 20, 2013
So far, a great read. It's Eat, Pray, Love without all the whining.
Profile Image for Melissa ♥ Dog/Wolf Lover ♥ Martin.
3,535 reviews9,953 followers
August 20, 2017
Re-Read on Audio 2017 ~ Just going to tweek my old review as I still feel the same about the book and movie.

** 2015 ** Review

I just recently watched the movie "Wild." I have actually watched the movie several times now. When I saw that it was based on a true story I immediately logged onto Amazon and ordered the book. I am so glad I did as this is a wonderful book.

Of course there are different things in the book than in the movie, but that just made it better, it was liked I was learning more about Cheryl's life.

I have always wanted to hike the Appalachian Trail when I would see the signs to it not far from where I live. But I got sick and that never happened. If you get a thought to try something, don't wait, DO IT, because you never know what is going to happen.

I never even knew anything about the PCT. I want to get books on it and read about it. I want to see in a book the actual places that Cheryl was in the book. I want to recognize some of the places.

I can't state enough how much I loved the book. It was so moving and hard. I can't imagine the things she went through, what anyone that hikes like that goes through. I love hiking but this is beyond hiking in my opinion.

Cheryl found out a lot of things about herself while on the trail. She met a lot of nice people along the way as well.

Sometimes a person's life is so sad and seems so horrible and then something wonderful comes along. Cheryl eventually found that in her life and I'm happy for her.

I recommend this book to anyone that loves hiking, to anyone that loves stories about finding yourself, to anyone that loves stories about the hardships of life. And Cheryl made it. ♥

Totally awesome!

MY BLOG: Melissa Martin's Reading List
Profile Image for su.
63 reviews23 followers
April 16, 2012
This author is the columnist who writes Dear Sugar? Sugar is wise and funny and real.

I found this book to be incredibly self indulgent. The first 100 pages was the author whinging about how her mother died when she was 22, and how she would never recover, never stop crying, never stop lashing out at the people around her. Instead of focusing on how lucky she was to have ever had a mother who poured an infinite amount of unconditional love into her, she instead imploded, lost in her own self indulgence. She also whinged about how her stepfather moved on, got married to a new woman, and forgot about her.

Instead of being simply grateful that she had ever had such warmth, kindness and compassion at all, she instead behaves like a spoiled, pampered brat. Instead of being grateful that her exhusband Paul seems like a total saint, she writes about how lonely she is, how sad she is that she destroyed her marriage, etc. She's lucky to have had Paul in her life, luckier that he's willing to stay "best friends" with her after her hurtful actions.

So, yay then she walks the Pacific Crest Trail, and learns a little about real life and enduring hardship and surviving.

I haven't finished the book yet, but given that it was written about a journey that happened in 1995, I'm guessing that between 1995 and 2012, the author has grown up and endured even more, resulting in the wisdom that is Sugar today.

Anyways, this book is definitely not for me. I guess I'm more accustomed to grittier and more desperate tales of endurance and transformation.

p.s. I did end up finishing the book. And my review remains the same: it's like a 90210 version of the Odyssey. There's no evidence of the pathos or humanity that swelters from the pages of Dear Sugar here.

Profile Image for Happyreader.
544 reviews89 followers
July 25, 2016
So much baggage. As a backpacker myself, I cringed to read about hoisting a backpack so heavy that she could only strap it on while sitting on the ground. How she managed to balance that pack and not let it accidentally fling her off the Sierras, even after Albert put that bag on a diet, is beyond me. And those tight boots that ate her toenails and mangled her feet into a fine pulp!! If nothing else, those boots end up being a fine advertisement for REI’s amazing customer service. While I’m happy she survived, her early hiking tales scared me. I hope there are no hapless hikers thinking they too can head out as unprepared as her. And it took so long to get to the actual hiking. Like her backpack, there’s so much personal drama to unload. So much grief. Over her mom’s death, over the childhood she didn’t get, over her self-destroyed marriage and other poor life choices. If you’re simply looking for tales of adventure on the PCT, you’re going to be disappointed. The PCT is only the backdrop and therapist to all that personal drama. You slog through overwrought drama more than scenic mountainscapes in this book. Thank heavens, by the end of the trip, she’s unloaded and discarded a lot of the figurative and literal baggage. Backpacking really is magic like that, if the excess weight doesn’t fling you over the edge first.
Profile Image for Michelle.
Author 12 books1,387 followers
May 30, 2012
Despite this book’s stellar reviews and much hype it did not seem like one I’d enjoy. A memoir written by a woman who loses her mother and then promptly takes up heroin and cheating on her sweet husband (who she loves very much). She then decides to hike the Pacific Crest Trail despite zero hiking/wilderness experience. I figured nothing to relate to here: the loss of a parent, the drugs, the cheating, and any and all hiking/camping/roughing it…these are all completely foreign to me and also things I'd like to avoid. And I was right: there was nothing I related to. Yet my enjoyment of this was not hindered. This is a great memoir. The writing is excellent and I turned the pages quickly, anxious to discover what happened next. It’s even funny at times. The hobo thing is hilarious.

Though the book is about her hike she does cover quite a bit of her background/history. The author never feels sorry for herself and takes 100% responsibility for all the shitty decisions she’s made. Thus she is quite likeable even as you’re thinking “you’re an idiot!” It’s amazing she did this hike. I do wonder if she’d done it now instead of 1995 if it would’ve been so desolate. She goes days (weeks?) without seeing another human. I feel like “extreme hiking” or just “extreme outdoorsiness” in general is a lot more popular now. The fact she was a woman, alone, hiking for all those weeks is astounding. A very impressive feat.

There are times the narrative gets a little long but I suppose if you spend months alone you’re going to be hard-pressed to fill a whole book. Today my feet hurt and I’m thirsty. Today my feet hurt again. That’d get old. Also, there are a few things she brings up so incessantly (objects, facts) that you’re certain they’re going to reappear and they don’t. Like foreshadowing without the actual follow-through. Anyway, overall a very, very well-written memoir and one that had me engaged from the first age to the last. Highly recommended!
Profile Image for Fergus, Quondam Happy Face.
1,028 reviews17.7k followers
September 26, 2023
The great American Hispanic philosopher George Santayana loved to tell the story of his macho dad’s last night in the land of the living...

Seems the whole household was already reverently hushed, mourning their inevitable loss.

But suddenly there cracked the evening sky like thunder, from Santayana père’s chamber, a Jovian Voice:

“$@!!! Where’s my blazing DINNER!?!”

So know you know where Santayana Junior inherited the genes for the incredible Life Force within him...

Well, I think Strayed must have inherited the same gene!

WILD, by the simply amazing Cheryl Strayed, is a tale of regaining your strength, dignity, sense of purpose, and all the love in your life that you may have thought you’d lost forever: in other words, a Total Rebirth.

Finding your Life Force!

Which has happened to me, after my own Long Day’s Journey to the Night of Nothingness.

A Total Rebirth.

At work, they termed the downsizing that restarted Cheryl's Journey for me, a move to Excelerate - to excel even while accelerating our pace - to make do independently with our dramatically cut staffs.

Thanks to our sensitive senior executives, the firings were few (and came with generous emoluments),

Thanks also to our own group leader Gordon Hunter, for letting his amazing brain be guided throughout by his heart!

But man, oh man, did my blood pressure skyrocket... and, of course, my bipolar condition played naïve second fiddle to my stress. And that scenario was obvious to my mental health worker.

What did he do? He prescribed a massive state-of-the-art tranquilizer.

He had no choice. It flatlined my libido. It brought the world - my friends, my gaffes, my unfounded Faith - into unforgivingly sharp focus.

But, worst of all, it emasculated my heuristics - those normative benchmarks you need to survive in the world and appear half-normal. I no longer had much clue of what normal was. Yikes.

Though, at first encounter, I seemed a positive, industrious soul swimming in paperwork.

Something similar happened to Cheryl. She lost it.

It must have happened to Jean-Paul Sartre, too, at the time he wrote Nausea - It was the dawning of the Absurd for him, as for me - and he henceforth saw his glass as half-empty (like so many coming-of-agers), while I, being bipolar, saw it as half-full.

And half-full, in our disintegrating workplace, was definitely not normal. So, having lost my heuristics in this chemical blitz of the Absurd, I was typecast as a friendly, bumbling pariah. To all who knew me, including those dearest to me.

Definitely not myself. So I dig where Cheryl's coming from.

She and I were food for the Crows.

Privileges were removed. Friends packed up and left. Though I got a ‘posthumous’ medal I was plainly not to be trusted when I retired, burned out as I was.

So what did I do when I retired? I fed the roots of my faith, and like Cheryl (and the Allied troops who fought the grisly Battle of the Bulge), I DUG IN FOR THE LONG HAUL.

Relearning my Faith. Relearning my Mystical Roots: Feeding them.

Making an effort to be affable. Making an effort to be loving:

Stepping up my charitable work.

AND relearning my heuristics. Writing endlessly long book reviews to re-establish my very identity: RETURNING TO MY ORIGINAL SELF.

Like Cheryl conquering the Pacific Crest and being reborn, through nailing myself down, I BECAME MYSELF AGAIN.


For I had once again become NORMAL.

God is good.

And life is good now, too.

O Captain! My captain, our fearful trip is done -
Our ship has weather’d every rack, the prize we sought is won!

Yes, Cheryl - I know the feeling.
Profile Image for Cher.
818 reviews281 followers
June 30, 2016
1.5 stars - I didn't like it.

Clearly from the rating, this one did not provide an impressive or favorable reading experience for me. With a fairly high average rating, I am in the minority with that vote. At 315 pages, I feel this could have easily been condensed into 1-2 pages. The memoir basically could be summed up like this:

My mother died. I am mad at her for this. I hate her for this. I miss her. I love my mother. I have horrible coping skills, those skills primarily being heroin, alcohol, and gratuitous sex with strangers. This caused my divorce. I love my ex-husband. He was wonderful. My mother died. I hate her. I love her. My backpack is heavy. I was unprepared for this trip. My feet hurt. I frequently remove my entire blackened toenail by hand and flick them away. I stink. My mother died. I hate her. I love her. Pretty creek! More gratuitous sex. My ex-husband is so wonderful. My mother died. I am mad at her. I miss her. My backpack is heavy. My feet hurt. I stink. Ahh, mountains. Just flicked another toenail. My backpack is heavy. I was unprepared for this trip. My mother died. Ex-husband is wonderful. Heavy. Hurt. Stink. I ate my mother's cremated remains. Yes, you read that correctly. Crater Lake is so beautiful. Feet hurt. Was not prepared for this trip. Ex-husband is wonderful. Single women hiking have to watch out for bad men. My mother died. Hate and love her. Met more guys, have crushes on them all. Pack is heavy. Feet hurt. I stink. You meet weird people on the trails. I am divorced. My ex-husband is wonderful. Mt. Hood is so pretty. Feet hurt. Flicked another toenail off - only have six intact left! Yay, I made it to my planned end on the trail. This was wild.

Sigh, I simply do not understand the hype around this book. For me, it was insignificant and forgettable. The writing is painfully repetitive, simplistic (and not in the amazing, beautiful way) and at times it seems the writer tries to be poetic but ends up leaving the reader scratching their head trying to translate. Allow me to share some examples:

“He kissed me hard and I kissed him back harder, like it was the end of an era that had lasted all of my life.”

"In my perception, the world wasn't a graph or formula or an equation. It was a story."

"I was a pebble. I was a leaf. I was the jagged branch of a tree. I was nothing to them and they were everything to me."

"I walked through the spider webs, feeling them like magic on my face, pulling them out of my hair."

P.S. Eating a loved one's remains will not ensure that they will remain with you forever. On average, the consumed parts will remain with you for approximately 53 hours before being eliminated from the body via the last stop on the digestive track, but could be as quickly as 33 hours. I recommend a nice, covered container to keep a portion of your loved one's remains as a more effective way of ensuring they will remain with you forever.


Favorite Quote: N/A.

First Sentence: The trees were tall, but I was taller, standing above them on a steep mountain slope in northern California.
Profile Image for Shelby *trains flying monkeys*.
1,606 reviews5,990 followers
December 14, 2015
A world that measured two feet wide and 2,663 miles long.
A world called the Pacific Crest Trail.

Palm Springs commercial photography

Cheryl's mother- who she was close with, comes down with cancer. She goes through losing her mom very fast. It seemed like one minute was the diagnosis and the next she was gone. She felt like a part of her soul was torn away.
The amount she loved us was beyond her reach. It could not be quantified or contained. It was the ten thousand named things in the Tao Te Ching's universe and then ten thousand more. Her love was full-throated and all-encompassing and unadorned.

Cheryl was married at the time but she lost herself and started cheating on her husband. She started using drugs. She lost who she thought she was.
She decides to hike the Pacific Trail with the thoughts that maybe she would get back that girl she used to be.

I have seen several review that slam her for taking off on a trail with an over-packed backpack and little knowledge of what she was doing. I'm not slamming her for that. She grew up in house that didn't have electricity or running water so she thought she was pretty tough. I don't see Bill Bryson getting slammed as much for his book A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail. (Which I did love, but he was pretty unprepared also). His book focused more on experiences of the actual hike though and not about just looking at cute guys on the trail and thinking about how horny she was. (Hey, I'm not knocking it-there just should have been more to read about)

I have to wonder if some of the hate for this story is because she was a woman setting off into the woods by herself.
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There were parts of the book that I just didn't care for either though. She repeats herself a ton. Over and over you hear how tired she is. How her feet hurt. How some of her toenails have come off. Just little mundane tid-bits that she feels needs repeated over and over. Borrrrinng.
Then it seems like she is trying to hard to be deep. Little "quotables" of her theory of life felt thrown throughout the book and at first I liked them but then it became too much. I felt like she was going for being an all knowing guru and it just ended up irritating the crap out of me.
Palm Springs commercial photography

Then the drug use. I think she was VERY stupid about the drug use. She keeps writing about how she was fine using heroin and that she would have stopped. I don't think she would have if her ex-husband hadn't gotten involved. I mean damn, she shot up in her frigging foot right before heading off into the woods.
She ate her mom's ashes. Because she wanted her to be a part of her forever. I get that she wants part of her mom, I do. That just kinda freaked me out. But it was supposed to be deep and deep is not my thing.
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I don't see how she made it so far with that heavy of a pack or the boots that were that much smaller than she needed either. But I'm going with sorta believing her. Sorta.

I feel bad that this book wasn't better for me. This is usually the type of book that I would have loved. I went through a stage where I was sorta outdoorsy. The first hike I did I was horribly prepared for. It was a hike that I later found out was one of the hardest in my area. (Mountains in it named Achin and Pain should have been my first clue) My dumb butt didn't want to move a muscle for a week. Nevermind that panic that I and my hiking companion had that we wouldn't make it to a spot that had water.
This is my chubby self on that nightmare hike. (Yes, I throw in personal shit when I want.)
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I will follow up with watching the movie version of this book, because I'm hoping that they cut out some of the repeatedness of the book.

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I buddy read this one with TL but she threw this sucker down and said "to heck with it."
Profile Image for Ahmad Sharabiani.
9,564 reviews33 followers
May 17, 2022
Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, Cheryl Strayed

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.

Cheryl Strayed is an American writer and podcast host. She has written four books: the novel Torch and the nonfiction books Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, Tiny Beautiful Things and Brave Enough.

تاریخ نخستین خوانش: روز دوم ماه آوریل سال2019میلادی

عنوان: وحشی؛ نویسنده: شرل (چریل) استرید ؛ مترجم: میعاد بانکی ؛ ویرایش: مریم سعیدی؛ تهران : ستاک‏‫، چاپ نخست سال1397، در443ص؛ چاپ دوم سال‏‫1397؛ ‬‬در447ص؛ مصور، نقشه، شابک9786008883050؛ عنوان روی جلد وحشی از گمشده تا پیدا شده، در مسیر پاسیفیک کرست؛ موضوع: استرید، چریل، سال‏‫1968میلادی‬ - سفر‌ها - مسیر پسیفیک کرست - سده20م

ممکن است همه در دوره ای از زندگی خویش خسته شوند؛ از زندگی روزمره، از جایی که در آن زندگی میکنند، از زندگی بدون دلخوشی؛ گاهی اوقات میکوشند، با رفتن به سفر حالشان را بهتر کنند؛ دوباره به زندگی عادیشان بازگردند؛ ولی گاهی اوقات، بعضی از آدمها، به سیم آخر میزنند و به سفری طولانی میروند؛ سفری که ممکن است روزها یا ماهها طول بکشد، یا حتی بازگشتی نداشته باشد

داستان زندگی «شرل استرید»، داستانی دل اگیز و واقعی، درباره ی زنی ست، که در آستانه ی فروپاشی، دلش میخواهد، در مسیری طولانی پیاده روی کند، تا خود را پیدا کند؛ سرگذشتنامه «استرید» به اندازه ای دل انگیز بوده، که در سال2014میلادی، فیلمی بر اساس سرگذشتنامه ی ایشان، به کارگردانی «ژان مارک ولی» ساخته شد؛ کتاب به مدت هفت هفته در صدر کتابهای پرفروش «نیویورک تایمز» بوده و به بیش از سی زبان ترجمه شده، و برنده ی بهترین کتاب سرگذشتنامه ی سال2012میلادی، در سایت «گودریدز» شده است

اوج هنر «استرید» در این کتاب، بازگو کردن سرگذشت خود، با جزئیاتی جذاب و لمس شدنی است، با صراحت حالات و افکارش را بازگو کرده، و خوانشگر را درگیر وضعیت خویش میکند؛ قلمش به گونه ای است، که حتی تاریکترین بخشهای زندگیش را، خواندنی کرده، گاهی با کلمات بازی میکنند، و این باعث میشود که قلمشان یگانه شود؛ از واژه ی «وایلد» بارها، با معانی گوناگونی سود برده، که این ترفند در زبان فارسی خوشبو نمیشود، گاهی از خودش اصطلاحاتی میسازد که عجیب و غریب است و کمی به درازا میکشد تا به آن عادت کنید

نقل نمونه متن: (سال‌ها طول کشید تا در میان آن همه‌ چیز دوباره خودم را پیدا کنم؛ تا آن زنی شوم که مادرم تربیت کرده بود؛ تا به‌ یاد آورم که چگونه می‌گفت عسلم و نگاه خاصش را در ذهنم تصور کنم؛ می‌خواستم رنج بکشم؛ می‌خواستم رنج بکشم؛ می‌خواستم همه‌ چیز نسبت به چیزی که بودند تغییر کنند؛ لازمه‌ اش جایی دور افتاده بود و من باید راه رهايى از غمم را در آن‌جا پيدا می‌کردم؛ چهار سال، هفت ماه، و سه روز طول کشید، تا اینکار را انجام دهم؛ نمی‌دانستم دارم به کجا می‌روم، تا اینکه به آن‌جا رسیدم؛ جایی به نام: پل خدایان)؛ پایان نقل

تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 31/03/1399هجری خورشیدی؛ 26/02/1401هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی
Profile Image for Willie.
11 reviews
September 15, 2017
Strayed's ego manages to outsize even the magnificent Pacific Crest Trail. She's a self-absorbed asshole who manages to use her mom's death as an excuse to spread her selfishness over everyone she knows. She survives her partial hike of the PCT only due to the amazing generosity of fellow hikers who are actually competent.

Are you wondering if she's pretty? Oh my, yes! Never mind that on the back flap she looks like someone's daffy aunt. Strayed never tires of relating the unending river of compliments she receives about her beauty and sexiness. Her appearance is a constant concern, even when she's on the verge of reaching her goal.

Maybe it shouldn't bother me so much that at one point she mentions snorting tar heroin, a task that is impossible due to tar heroin's, well, tarriness. It comes up when she tells of her brief trist with the drug while shacked up with a fellow florid-tongued dipshit in Portland, Oregon – another situation from which she ends up requiring rescue, this time by her generous ex-husband. That obvious lie makes me wonder about the veracity of the rest of her tale (except her stunning beauty, of course).

She appears to think she's somehow developed spiritually or emotionally by the book's close, but it's unclear how. She seems like just as much of a thoughtless ass as she did on page one.

She writes eloquently and there must some truth throughout, for why would someone fabricate a story that makes herself look like such a dick?
Profile Image for میعاد.
Author 8 books222 followers
September 2, 2019
ترجمهٔ این کتاب تجربهٔ خیلی عجیبی بود؛ با خوندن همون فصل اول، دو کتاب دیگه‌ای رو که توی لیست ترجمه داشتم کنار گذاشتم. همراه‌شدن با شِرِل برام تجربهٔ متفاوتی بود. قلمش خاص بود و البته ترجمه رو کمی برام سخت می‌کرد؛ نویسنده ليسانسش ادبيات انگلیسیِه و اصطلاح‌هایی توى کتاب هست که مخصوص خودشه و فكر كنم يكى از دلايلى كه على‌رغم شهرتش ترجمه نشده همين بوده! ريسك بزرگى كردم به‌هرحال😁 اميدوارم تونسته باشم اون فضاى جذاب و عجيب ذهنش رو منتقل كنم و کمبودهاش رو هم نادیده بگیرید. حدود ۲۰ تا از مصاحبه‌هاش رو دیدم و خوندم و تا حد توانم سعی کردم به سبک نويسنده وفادار باشم و درعین‌حال متن هم روان باشه.
گاهى اين‌قدر با شِرِل همراه مى‌شدم كه شب‌ها كابوس مى‌دیدم؛ خودم رو تو بيابون احساس می‌کردم و من هم مار و جونورايى رو كه شِرِل باهاشون مواجه شده بود می‌دیدم.
احساس شِرِل به مادرش برای من خیلی قابل‌درک بود. باوجود حماقت‌هاش، دلم برای عشق عجیبی که نسبت به مادرش داشت می‌سوخت؛ عشقى كه واقعا برام جذاب و قشنگه. کتاب تلنگر بزرگیه به افرادی که قدر کسایی رو که اطرافشون هستند نمی‌دونند.

خوشحالم که این شانس نصیبم شد و این کتاب رو به فارسی ترجمه کردم. شِرِل به‌قدری روراسته که همه‌ش حین ترجمه از خودم می‌پرسیدم چطور می‌شه یک‌نفر این‌قدر جرئت داشته باشه که حتی خصوصی‌ترین فکرهاش رو بازگو کنه و خجالت نکشه!؟ از قضاوت‌های مردم نترسه!
این کتاب برای من در صدر ژانرش و جزو ۵ کتاب دوست‌داشتنی زندگی‌م قرار گرفته. جذاب‌ترین نکته‌ش اینه که سرگذشت‌نامه‌س نه تخیل نویسنده. خوشبختانه از طریق توییتر با نویسنده صحبت کردم و گفتم که کتاب رو ترجمه کردم و گفت خوشحاله که در ایران هم کتابش خونده می‌شه.
نمى‌تونم با اطمینان بگم که شما هم به اندازهٔ من دوستش خواهید داشت، چون کتاب سلیقه‌ایه، ولی افرادی که سلیقهٔ من رو می‌شناسند قطعا با خوندن صفحه‌به‌صفحهٔ این
کتاب حالِ عجیبی می‌شن....
كتاب در نشر سِتاك چاپ شده
Profile Image for Lizzie.
689 reviews95 followers
June 15, 2015
Ok ok good. Everyone's new favorite book: yes, I loved it too.

DO YOU WANT TO HEAR SOMETHING STUPID? During the first half, I wasn't sure how much I liked it. Because I am crazy. Because it is good! It is all good. But it was different, at first, than I expected. I was joking before, that for fans of Sugar (an inevitable readership for this book), there almost needs to be two ratings: one for book-ness, and one for Sugar-ness. By nature, the essays in "Dear Sugar" are written in a way that requires them to relate her story to a metaphor, that make her experiences reach through the ordinary to say something about another situation. This writer knows how to pull the honesty of life out of very regular things, the kinds of things that make you feel, "Why is this getting to me? Everything is fine." She knows why, she can explain, she can cup you in her palm and show you what the world does.

So I was looking for this in the book on page one, greedily. And honestly, to me it wasn't all there. I liked it for sure, but it wasn't tugging inordinately at my heart, just telling me stuff in a really honest way. There is a lot to learn about what she's going through, and that is what you're getting into in the beginning. Then halfway through, something changed. The fox happened and I cried, was one of the things. And I thought, when I read that: there we go, that is it, that is what I've needed from this. It's a breath-catching moment that relates to what she's been writing and means everything to her, and she delivers that everything right on the page, in actually just a few lines.

WELL THEN little did I know that immediately next up is Lady The Horse, and I would soon be dead from crying. I… cried so much, that next day. And books don't actually make me do that very often. But here, unfortunately, I started to read that chapter on the subway home from work — normally a PERFECTLY SAFE reading environment — and I knew I was going to be in trouble. I think the most terrible part for me was actually its beginning, when she knew the inevitability of what would happen, and then we all just had to watch it. I got off of the train and couldn't just put my bookmark there, so I stood outside on the sidewalk finishing the section, and then I walked into a park and stood behind a tree in the dark to hide while I cried my brains out.

Happily, I came back to life in order to finish the book. And I don't know if it is just the unmistakeable power of that section, but everything after felt different. It all got me. She is writing the necessary symbolism deep, deep inside the story, and it is almost never gone afterward. Partly, her journey affords a lot of its payoff at this point — she never quits learning what she's doing, but the first half is almost all learning, and the second half has her also knowing, and noticing, and reaching.

In general, there's a few things going on here. The author is hiking this trail for three months, and the point is that she doesn't know what she is doing. She started to do it because it seemed right and not because she seemed ready. She literally didn't know how to carry everything she had to bring with her. She also literally doesn't know what will be at the end of the path, after the point on the map at the Bridge of the Gods, what then. It's huge, it's all of it huge and right and good.

I think the theme I liked most, though, was about identity. A lot is in there, of course, because when she takes this trip she is in a huge amount of transition, and that is basically the point of the whole endeavor. But I was surprised that there is actually a lot of more literal identity crises in the story, not so much of finding where she fits as finding she's not even on the side of the line she thinks she's on. This happens kind of a lot: the hobo mistakes her for a hobo, the journalist mistakes her for a hobo, the hippies mistake her for a hippie. She finds herself so far outside of normal life, both because she's living literally outside and because she happens to be cold broke, and there is so much looking in at the world with inarticulable longing (often for cheeseburgers). Some people get really proud of going off the grid and out of the mainstream when they've had some of the privilege to sacrifice it in the first place, but that's not really Cheryl's motive (this is not Into the Wild, thank god) and she doesn't expect to think of herself that way. I think it makes her feel even more lost on the personal side of her journey, and means that she has even more work to do to make her new life work than she thought.

Relatedly, she thinks some interesting thoughts about gender. There's a lot of the basic-feminist "being a woman alone" pride, of course. One loses count of how many guys make comments about her hiking the trip alone, often paired with the veiled threat that they would never permit a woman who was "theirs" to do so. But what's really interesting are the specific situations she runs into where she has to figure out if she is safe. She writes through every step in her calculations every time she is afraid, and the times she is afraid of men are even more interesting than any of the times she is afraid of wild animals or dangerous terrain. She's inspecting the line across which things can become irrevocable, and they go in both directions. (A bull in both directions, I suppose.)

Also, this is silly, but

I'd like to say that that's it, because I think it would be cooler to say so, but the truth is that just like all good fans of anything, I love Cheryl Strayed because she means something to me, me, that I don't think could possibly mean as much to anyone else (though obviously, that's the magic). This is particularly forceful for her writing because she writes about her life, and things about her life and her feelings remind me of very important things about mine. The subjects of her essays often bring this out fiercely, and there is plenty of it present in this book, too. A great deal of the pages I folded down are personal, personal. It feels like a letter in which she's giving, well, advice.

She just has such a gift for this. I think we're lucky she knows how to make it a gift for the rest of us, too.
Profile Image for Diane.
1,081 reviews2,719 followers
March 4, 2016
I loved this memoir so much that I read it twice. When Cheryl Strayed was in her 20s, she decided to hike 1,000 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail. The wilderness walk was born out of grief — her mother had died suddenly of cancer, and Cheryl was feeling lost. She had been wildly taking drugs and having affairs, which broke up her marriage. She also felt regret over mean things she had said to her mother, and she was angry that her mom had died so young.

I was profoundly affected by Cheryl's story. She wrote eloquently about her family and her grief, her adventures on the trail, and what the experience meant to her. Cheryl is a wonderful storyteller — she's funny and warm and clever. I highly recommend this book to those who like outdoor adventures or who appreciate grief memoirs.

Favorite Quotes
"Now that she was dying, I knew everything. My mother was in me already. Not just the parts of her that I knew, but the parts of her that had come before me, too."

"It hadn't occurred to me that my mother would die. Until she was dying, the thought had never entered my mind. She was monolithic and insurmountable, the keeper of my life. She would grow old and still work in the garden. The image was fixed in my mind, like one of the memories from her childhood that I'd made her explain so intricately that I remembered as if it were mine."

"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 sorry, but if I could go back in time I wouldn't do anything differently than I had done? What if I'd actually wanted to fuck every one of those men? What if heroin taught me something? What if yes was the right answer instead of no? What if what made me do all those things everyone thought I shouldn't have done was what also had got me here? What if I was never redeemed? What if I already was?"

First read: March-April 2012
Second read: February 2016
Profile Image for Carmen.
2,065 reviews1,904 followers
March 29, 2016
Cheryl is dealing with her mother's death badly. In her grief she has a.) not done the final work necessary to get her degree, b.) cheated on her sweet husband with multiple men, c.) as a result of (b) has gotten a divorce, d.) has a kind-of boyfriend named Joe who introduces her to heroin.

After all this, Cheryl feels like she needs to get her head right. So she decides to hike the PCT (Pacific Crest Trail), which is more than a thousand miles long.

She is not a backpacker or an experienced hiker. She makes tons of mistakes along the way, carrying a very heavy pack, losing 6 toenails, meeting (sometimes unfriendly) wildlife, meeting (sometimes unfriendly) people, and finally coming to terms with her mother's death and the loss of her husband (through divorce).

This book at times made me laugh out loud, at times it made me feel sad (not cry - I never cry over books), and sometimes frightened me. I really liked all the emotions it made me feel.

I was hesitant to read this book, because my friends in real life are split between love it/hate it. However, I ended up landing in the "love it" camp.

While some people complained that the book was boring and too self-absorbed, I really loved it. She alternates between telling what's happening on the Trail and what happened to her in the past (her mom's death, her family's disbanding, her father's abandonment, her stepfather's abandonment, her divorce, her abortion, her drug use, her mindless affairs with men she has no feelings for, etc.). The trail part is not boring because not only does she describe nature/hiking stuff, but she describes vividly the other hikers she stumbles upon on the way and also friendly (and unfriendly) townfolk on her many stops along the way. I was fascinated and intrigued.

I really liked how honest and open she was about her life and the mistakes she made. She laid it all out there: the divorce, which was her fault. Her many affairs. Her drug use. Her failure to get her college degree. It's really hard and painful to put your failures out there in public, and I really admired her for doing that. It certainly made me feel sympathy and empathy for her - she was a human being who was basically good, but flawed.

Other people complained about her rather...adventurous...sexuality. However, this didn't bother me at all. It's true that she thought about having sex with every single male she met, regardless of age, race, religion, height, weight, or marital status, but that was fine. I liked that she liked men and that she liked sex. I was happy that she insisted on using a condom when she did have sex. I don't condone her cheating on her husband, but trust me - she's suffered enough for that. And she doesn't have sex with any married men in the book. She tries to blame this attitude she has towards sex on her father (and stepfather, I guess) abandoning her, but I don't really know if that was it. It was clear she just really liked men and also was able to separate sex from love, which isn't possible for everyone. She's young (26) and I feel like she should enjoy herself while she can. So no judgment here on her sexual choices from me.

What DOES bother me is her drug use. She just forges joyfully on, la la la, accepting any drugs offered to her by any person in any situation without a thought to the consequences. "Heroin? Fine. Opium? Sure. La, la, la. Oh, you're just a random man I met in a hick town who lives in your truck and approaches me out of nowhere and the next thing I know I'm gleefully eating opium with you in your truck? La, la, la." This drove me nuts. She could have gotten really fucked-up and been in serious trouble. She insists the heroin was "just a phase (of 2 months)" but if her ex-husband hadn't come along and yanked her out of that situation I believe she'd still be using.

Overall, the book was touching, funny, invigorating, and motivating. I highly enjoyed every second reading it, and I know I will re-read it. It has a good re-read quality to it, I think. AND it's available in Spanish as "Salvaje." Woo-hoo!

P.S. Update 09/12/2014
Also, it's worth noting that this is the only solo female quest adventurer that I have ever read about. While there are dozens of male narratives about striking out on your own and having an adventure for the purposes about learning about life and making discoveries about yourself - this is the only instance I can remember of a woman doing this.

This book is a great message to women and girls that they too can strike out on their own and have adventures. I know a lot of women decide to backpack across Europe or travel across the USA and have complained to me about the lack of female narratives that express this desire and express a female's ability to do this without being inevitably raped and murdered.

If only for that and nothing else, Cheryl Strayed's narrative has value to me.
Profile Image for Trudi.
615 reviews1,456 followers
December 11, 2014
Finally finished listening to this as an audio. Meh. I have my problems with it. I may or may not review it, we'll see.


Alright, I've given it some thought and feel that I should try to capture some of what this book made me feel (and didn't feel as it were). This memoir is essentially two stories that sometimes intersect with each other but more often than not run parallel. One story is Cheryl's 90+ day 1100 mile solo hike of the Pacific Crest Trail when she was 26 years old. The other story is of the tragic death of Cheryl's mother from lung cancer four years previously. That story is one of all-consuming grief, anger, and a downward spiral into dangerous and self-destructive behaviors.

Even though it was the death of her mother which precipitated Cheryl's decision to solo hike the PCT, I felt like the two stories are so very different from each other that it just doesn't work to have both accounts in the same book. I found it jarring each time Cheryl flashbacks to a moment in her pre-PCT life.

Don't get me wrong, both stories interested me. I was eager to read about a crazy girl taking on this extreme physical challenge. I adore man vs. nature tales. And although I found it difficult and somewhat emotionally draining, I also wanted to read about the particulars of Cheryl's grief and the details surrounding her mother's death. I lost my own mother to cancer in July 2010 and I find myself inexplicably hungering for the accounts of other people's experience of such profound tragedy.

The problem I have with the book overall I guess, is that the two stories do not complement each other very well. Some sections in which Cheryl describes the horror of helping her mother die and the depth of the grief which followed are beautifully and honestly written. The scene involving her mother's horse is seared upon my memory.

These sections are at odds however, with Cheryl's account of her selfish, self-destructive behavior after her mother's death. We all grieve differently, and there is no right way. Cheryl's chronic infidelities, drug abuse, and finally her decision to hike the PCT totally inexperienced and extremely ill-equipped I did not find interesting. In fact, it pushed me away rather than drew me in. I felt turned off. It's one thing to do something wholeheartedly rash and stupid and dangerous when you are 26 years old, but to try and wax poetic about it in hindsight in your 40s is not cool. I felt like Cheryl romanticized her hike waaaaaay too much, a reminiscence with rose-colored glasses. Sure she talks about the blisters and the patches of dry skin, the weight loss, the hunger, the thirst, the heat. But she downplays the imminent very real dangers for a happy story that all worked out in the end.

Her PCT hike could have -- should have -- ended quite disastrously. She went about it very naively, with little or no real knowledge or hiking experience. Her mistakes were massive and at times ridiculous. You can choose to laugh about them in retrospect, but the message really should be: kids, don't try this at home. I felt like grown-up Cheryl should have been apologizing for her reckless stunt rather than almost ... bragging about it. Yes, there is a definite tone of bragging and conceit (that can't all be attributed to the audiobook's reader). Maybe that's what turned me off the most, and that is certainly a very subjective, personal response I know.

If you like reading about dysfunctional people as their lives spiral out of control this book may appeal to you. If you like to read about people doing crazy ass stunts then by all means, take on the story of this young woman as she haphazardly and with zealous abandon hikes into the woods with a mammoth pack on her back and boots that are one size too small.

Cheryl's story may inspire you. It did not have that effect on me.
Profile Image for Whitney Atkinson.
940 reviews14k followers
April 12, 2017
This was a very enjoyable read! I think memoirs are the best books to be listened to on audiobook because it feels (or rather, sounds) like a friend relating a story to you. Cheryl had a great voice and although she's a flawed human being and isn't afraid to write about the times she's messed up, she has a very unapologetic and feminist voice that I wasn't expecting. It didn't really hit me how strong a woman has to be to hike over 80 days completely alone and the challenges and prejudices she would have to overcome. This was definitely an interesting story and uplifting, and every time I had free time, I was very eager to continue this!

The reason I counted off one star is because she would sometimes go into veeeery extended stories about her life before the trail, which I understand is relevant to why she felt motivated to hike the trail, but at times, the information felt extraneous. At one point there was an extremely vivid and graphic scene describing the time that her brother had to shoot their mother's horse in order to put it down, and as a horse owner and general animal lover, I was really disturbed by that scene and want to warn any readers about that scene who are sensitive to animals suffering.

I haven't seen the movie but I can see how it would be very cool! This was definitely an interesting read with a great message about self-discovery and resilience that also has its moments of friendship and humor.
Profile Image for sarah gilbert.
62 reviews66 followers
March 18, 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.
Profile Image for Calista.
4,071 reviews31.3k followers
June 22, 2018
I'll admit that the first time and place I heard of this book was 'the Gilmore Girls - a Year in the Life'. All the backpackers are gathered to go on a hike and they form groups based on the book or the movie. That put it on my list and I eventually got around to it. I'm glad I did.

I have heard of people hiking the Appalachian Trial, but I didn't really know about the PCT. Reading this book did make me want to try out parts of the AT. I'm not so interested in the PCT. I figure it's much more popular to do this now than in 1995 so it won't be as wild, there will be more people and maybe that's ok too. I'm sure you would still feel plenty alone at times.

What I enjoyed about the book was seeing the mess Cheryl made of her life. I mean, she messed her life up about as much as a person can at this point. It makes me feel better to know that this isn't so unusual and not everyone has all the shit together all the time. Cheryl went through something hard and luckily she found her way back. It can be so easy to melt down in life at times and we have to find ways to come back to life. I feel like this really was a spirit walk. She was finding her way back to 'life'.

I loved hearing about her face to face with critters on the trail. I have come face to face with a mountain lion and I know how that can be. I feel lucky to be alive in many ways. I'm glad nothing horrible happened to her either. I also enjoyed hearing how she made it despite not really being a hiker and being prepared.

This is a wonderful story of a life. I feel like she told the tale honestly and bravely. Thank you for sharing with the world Cheryl.
Profile Image for Olive Fellows (abookolive).
613 reviews5,001 followers
June 21, 2023
I finally read it! It was definitely a "right book, right time" kind of read for me, too. Love when that happens.

Click here to hear more of my thoughts on this book over on my Booktube channel, abookolive!

Profile Image for Esil.
1,118 reviews1,363 followers
March 25, 2018
I recently listened to the audio of Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar, which I loved and which made me think that Cheryl Strayed has a special kind of wisdom. It made me think that I should read Wild, which is also by Cheryl Strayed. For the longest time, despite many encouraging recommendations, I had been hesitant to read Wild because how could a story about a 1000+ mile trek possibly be interesting? It’s obviously an intense experience for the person doing the walking, but why should I care about her internal thoughts, epiphanies about herself and the world, achy feet and random encounters with people and creatures? The answer I now know is because it’s written by Cheryl Strayed. I didn’t love this as much as Tiny Beautiful Things, but I certainly recognized what I love about this author. She writes incredibly well. She can make the mundane seem interesting and meaningful. And her manner of introspection doesn’t feel overly self-indulgent. Having said this, the Strayed on the trail is younger than the Strayed of Tiny Beautiful Things, and at times I grew impatient with her youthful preoccupations – i.e. should she bring any condoms? How many? Who might they be worth using with? But this is a minor complaint, Strayed’s honesty and wisdom resonate with me, and I will happily read her next foray into non-fiction – or even fiction.

A note on the audio: Strayed does not read Wild whereas she does read Tiny Beautiful Things. Having become used to her voice in Tiny Beautiful Things, I really missed it in Wild, although the narrator of Wild is perfectly adequate.

Thank you to the many GR friends who encouraged me to read Wild.
1 review2 followers
May 17, 2013
I just finished this book, which I bought because I enjoy day hiking, have been to the High Sierra and desert environments, and love good writing about hiking and mountaineering, from Joe Simpson’s books to A Walk in the Woods. I have to say that I am mystified by the positive reviews, particularly in magazines such as Backpacker and Outside. In fact, based on my own experiences hiking, and the author’s often vague and contradictory depiction of her hike on the Pacific Crest Trail, I believe her account to be extremely exaggerated, at the very least. I base this conclusion on the following observations:

• One of the recurrent tropes in the book is the loss of toenails due to ill-fitting hiking boots; the author repeatedly describes her toenails becoming black and then falling off (p. 5, and at various points throughout the book). I lost toenails a number of times while studying ballet, but never in the manner that she describes. More to the point, as discussed below, why didn’t she have boots which were properly fitted, which she at least attempted to test out prior to beginning the Pacific Crest Trail?
• Given the photography equipment that she describes having taken (p. 40), and the importance of the Pacific Crest Trail hike in her emotional development, how is it that she has no pictures, at all?
• How is she able to carry her pack for 20+ miles (before it is repacked for her by another hiker along the trail) if she is unable to “budge it an inch in an air-conditioned motel room” (p. 43), and an adult man says that he can barely lift it (p. 49), because it has all of her gear and over 26 pounds of water? Particularly given that she claims she did no physical conditioning prior to starting the hike (p. 58)?
• She claims that she bought The Pacific Crest Trail, Volume I: California and read it “a dozen times” before beginning the hike (p. 57). She calls this book her “bible” and “lifeline” (p. 58). So how does she not know that she will have to carry water in the Mojave Desert until “a couple of weeks before” she begins the hike? How is it that she doesn’t know that a gallon of water weighs over eight pounds? How did she not know to check trail conditions in the High Sierra ahead of time, so that she would have been aware that that portion of the trail was impassable due to snow?
• She claims that prior to beginning her hike she took the time required to learn “how to make dehydrated tuna flakes and turkey jerky,” to complete “a refresher course on basic first aid,” and to practice “using my water purifier in my kitchen sink” (p. 57). Given that she made these preparations over “months of planning,” why did she not pack her backpack to check its weight (p. 58), physically condition herself for the hike (p. 58), or attempt to break in (and return) her too-small boots during that same period of time?
• She claims that she went to REI “about a dozen times” to purchase gear, and listened to its employees “talk about gear, with interest and nuance,” for a “dumbfounding” length of time (p. 40-41). So how is it that she doesn’t know about REI’s return policy until informed by another hiker, especially because it applies to the boots that are allegedly torturing her (p. 199)? How is it that she ended up with the wrong fuel for her backpacking stove (p. 67)?
• By her fourth day on the trail, carrying her enormous, heavy backpack, she supposedly has blistered feet (p. 67), a gash in her shin “seeping copious blood” with “a knot the size of a fist” under it (p. 67), and has scraped off “all the skin on the top of my right index finger” (p. 69). She’s also hiking in a desert, although she does not describe the experience of that sort of extreme environment until later in the book (p. 191-193), and does not mention the temperature, even though she claims to have had a thermometer at the time (p. 65, 192). So how does she cover 9 miles that day (p. 70)? Later, in addition to all of these injuries, she falls while traversing a rockslide, and ends up with her knee “pulsing in pain and bleeding” (p. 82). Yet somehow, again in the desert environment, she manages 8.5 miles (p. 82).
• As for the part where she hikes for days in falling-apart sandals reinforced with duct tape (p. 215-216), that simply does not sound possible to me, but I would defer to someone with real backpacking experience as to the plausibility of such a feat.
• Supposedly her mother stayed with her abusive father for the first six years of her life. During that time he apparently choked her mother, alternatively asked the kids if they would leave forever with him and told them that he was going to throw them out on the street, smashed plates against the wall, and repeatedly shook his fist in her face while asking her whether she wanted a “knuckle sandwich” (p. 131-132, 205). But when she catalogues her list of grievances against her mother (p. 265-266), staying with this horrifically abusive man is never mentioned. Instead, she complains that her mother smoked pot, left her and her siblings alone, threatened to spank them with a wooden spoon, allowed them to call her by her first name, was annoyingly optimistic but cool and distant with her friends, and didn’t suggest that she apply to Harvard.

In short, one should not expect an accurate account of hiking the Pacific Crest Trail from this book. One should also be prepared for fatuous (“I was a great believer in things, but I was also a great non-believer in things”) and ridiculously melodramatic depictions of emotional life, and gratuitous “gross-out” scenes, primarily involving the removal of toenails and the killing of a horse. Overall, it’s the kind of writing and story that’s tolerable for a three-page Oprah Magazine article read in a doctor’s waiting room, but is excruciating when drawn out over a 300+ page book.
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