WILD by Cheryl Strayed

Wild by Cheryl Strayed cover“How wild it was, to let it be.”

I’ve had my eye on Cheryl Strayed’s memoir Wild for years now. I love hiking- as explained here– so when I heard of this book I knew it would be something I would find interesting, at the very least. I’m familiar with the Appalachian Trail, but before reading this memoir I knew next to nothing about the Pacific Crest Trail. While I learned an immense amount about the PCT, I was also happy to discover that Wild addresses so much more than a long, long hike. Strayed takes the reader along on her personal journey through grief, heartache, and a quest to find herself again.

Strayed’s personality simply shines through her writing, resulting in a memoir that is honest, genuine, and raw. It feels as though she holds nothing back, like she is confiding in the reader as if they were an old friend rather than a complete stranger. It takes courage to blatantly lay out the details of such an emotional time in your life in this way, and I applaud Strayed for choosing to do so. She admits her ignorance, foolishness, and mistakes while at the same time emphasizing her ability to learn from them. Her personality is accentuated by the engaging narration of the audio book that I listened to. Bernadette Dunne, the narrator, had different voices for all of the characters that really brought the story to life. She performed with just the right amount of emotion, and at times it almost felt as though Cheryl herself was talking to me on the phone, telling me her story.

Moreover, the structured of this memoir is really well-organized and executed. She tells the story of her hike on the PCT in mostly chronological order, all the while interjecting with bits and pieces about her life prior to embarking on this journey. As a result, the reader gains a clear understanding of Cheryl both on and off the trail without having to endure massive “info-dumps.”  Strayed gradually provides us with information when relevant rather than overwhelming us with it all at once. There is a careful balance between her past and present, and she has managed to find an incredibly effective way of seamlessly weaving them together.

Similarly, the conclusion of Wild was refreshingly satisfying and expertly written as well. I don’t know if this would be considered a spoiler since Wild is a memoir and not a fictional story, but at the end Strayed wraps everything up by flashing forward into her future, between when she finished the PCT and when she writes this book. She discusses how she moves on, gets married, starts a family, and eventually brings them all to the exact location where she finished her journey. Her moment of reflection was the perfect way to conclude this memoir because it really drives home how the overall experience has impacted here life. Glimpsing her future helped tie together the jumble of seemingly random experiences she had while hiking and made sense of them in a way the reader could better understand. When I finally listened to the last line of the audio book I felt an overwhelming sense of satisfaction. If only every book ending could be so rewarding!

I know this is a true story and therefore I can’t really complain about unchangeable events (this is her actual life, after all); however, I couldn’t help but feel frustrated with Cheryl at times. Why did she have to break things off with her husband? Why did she start and continue doing heroin, even though so many people offered to help her stop? It seems like Cheryl made so many poor decisions that could have been avoided with some self-control and common sense. Perhaps this is overly critical of me to say– she was dealing the crushing loss of her mother, after all, and things always appear clearer in hindsight– but I wanted to mention it as it is something that really bothered me throughout this memoir.

Overall, I was captivated and fascinated by Cheryl Strayed’s inspiring story. Not only is Wild an entertaining, thought-provoking memoir, but it is also an engrossing tale of hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. Whether you’re an avid hiker or not, this memoir is sure to be a valuable and enjoyable read!

My Rating: :0) :0) :0) :0) 4 out of 5 smileys

Would I recommend it to a friend?: Definitely! You don’t have to enjoy hiking to like this book, but it’s a bonus if you do!

What are your thoughts on this memoir? Would you recommend the movie adaptation? Let me know in the comments section below!



28 thoughts on “WILD by Cheryl Strayed

  1. I read the book after watching the trailer for the movie adaptation and I have to agree with evrything you said.
    it was deep, honest and real but I was annoyed with Cheryl too sometimes. I was weirdly hoping she could work it out with her first husband at some point, but as you said this is life. So, I am glad she found someone to be with.
    Are you going to read her other book as well?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I loved the books but was also a little annoyed with Cheryl. I couldn’t always relate to her but loved how she described the scenery. Any other outdoor book suggestions? Thanks for your review!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I actually haven’t read that many outdoorsy books besides this one, though I really need to! Into the Wild is outdoorsy (kind of) and fantastic, and my dad (who also loves hiking) recently read Bill Bryson’s book A Walk in the Woods and loved it. Hope that helps!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Great review, Holly! This book sounds amazing, and I’m glad you found the audiobook engaging. I kind of wish that it was Cheryl Strayed herself narrating it; she has a wonderfully soothing voice and while I don’t have anything against other people narrating, books narrated by their own authors feel kind of special to me.

    Have you read Tiny Beautiful Things yet? I wonder how the writing compares, because that’s definitely one of the things I love the most about Cheryl Strayed.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s a good point– it would have been so much better if Cheryl had narrated it herself. I love when authors do that ❤
      To be honest, I didn't even know that she wrote another book! (wow I'm so behind haha) I'll definitely have to check it out. She's a great writer, so I'm sure it will be a fantastic read as well 🙂


      1. Tiny Beautiful Things is a non-fiction advice q&a thing so it might be different from Wild! If you do pick it up, let me know how you go – I loved that book because her writing was just so beautiful. ❤

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank YOU for stopping by my blog! 🙂

      I hope you enjoy Wild! It’s a great read, especially for the summer. Let me know what your thoughts are once you finish it!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Wild was my gateway drug to Cheryl Strayed, and I now consider her to be my fairy godmother. I would highly recommend Tiny Beautiful Things to you; it’s a really wonderful collection of advice columns she wrote as Dear Sugar, and I think it will also help you understand why she had to divorce her husband. It was a totally life-changing book for me.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much for the recommendation! Now I want to read Tiny Beautiful Things ASAP! I love her writing style, so I’m definitely looking forward to reading more of her work in the future.


  5. I don’t enjoy hiking, though this sounds like a intimate look into her journey. I’ve not read many memoirs or non-fiction, usually because they’re not in my tastes, but I’m becoming more open-minded to give some a try. Like H is for Hawk was one I did, and although not hugely amazing, was still a good read. I think I’ll try this book next!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I definitely think this memoir can still be enjoyed by someone who doesn’t like hiking– Cheryl Strayed’s story is still inspiring and entertaining, and she’s a great writer in general. I’ve never heard of H is for Hawk. I’ll have to check it out! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Good points made. Cheryl herself was more than a little annoyed with life & her own choices, which was what set the trip in motion. I find it easy to be mystified by others, yet am quickly humbled when I think of some the things I’ve done myself…

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Hey! Just came upon this review. Wild was one of my faves last year. I haven’t seen the movie yet but it’s on my pvr/recording device. Have you seen the movie? I’m curious about your thoughts on the movie.



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