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!