The introduction was fantastic. I don't want to give too much away, but the first 30 minutes are practically guaranteed to make you cry.
I love and respect Cheryl Strayed so much. She has overcome trauma and loss, and written about it in order to allow the rest of the world to benefit from her journey. I feel that this is a fantastic coming-of-age novel, though I don't see many other teens and early 20-somethings reading it. It's about giving yourself a challenge so that you can become an adult - a loving, mature, beautiful adult - despite whatever hardships and misfortune life has thrown your way.
However, I must admit that it felt that things dragged towards the end. For awhile it seemed like the actual description of the hike itself was tedious, and I simply listened patiently for Cheryl to return to more compelling personal stories. I wish Cheryl had told us more about herself, and a little less about every single stop that she makes to get her resupply boxes.
I think that this memoir has a lot in common with Eat, Pray, Love. I love both of these books. If you are familiar with this work, here are some key differences:
1 - Cheryl faced struggles more beyond her control (rural poverty, a violent father, the early death of her mother, etc) whereas Liz Gilbert was battling mostly with her inner demons and neuroses, and self-inflicted romantic drama. Cheryl struggles to finance going on a very spartan hike, and just feels grittier and more real than Gilbert, who gets an advance to travel around the world for a year with the explicit purpose of writing about her travels.
2 - Cheryl is less explicitly spiritual about her journey of self discovery. Though hiking can be meditative, there is no discussion of mantras, gurus, shakras, etc. I think this could be appealing to many who found EPL to be a little too "out there" spiritually.
I enjoyed Bernadette Dunne's reading of the book, and she managed to put many layers of depth of expression into simple words and phrases. However, I must say that I wish that Cheryl Strayed had recorded this herself. She did a fine job recording her other recent release "Tiny Beautiful Things" (also highly recommended), and I think that it is truly remarkable to hear to author of a memoir tell his or her own life story.
The print version includes some photos of Cheryl's hike, people she met, her infamous backpack "Monster". Check out Oprah's book club website to see these photos - you don't want to miss them because you were listening to the audiobook. I also listened to "Tiny Beautiful Things" also by Cheryl Strayed, and I feel that it is an excellent companion to Wild. I feel like that book actually reveals much more about Cheryl than Wild does, even though it was never intended to be a memoir. The advice and stories that she shares is absolutely life-changing.
I found that the slow pace of the narration made listening to this audiobook a chore. I am guessing that this could be an interesting quick read, as a character study, but lacks the substance to be consumed as an 8 hour audiobook. I found that I could not keep the girls straight, and I was just waiting for them to kill themselves so the book could be over.
It's a shame, because it's such a compelling concept and I've heard great things about Eugenides. I'm going to try Middlesex even though I did not like this book, that's pretty clearly his masterpiece.
Absolutely, this was a life changing book. I would recommend it to anyone who has faced challenges or struggles in their life. It is a guide for overcoming adversity - not just by sticking your head down and working through it - but by providing an emotional guide for processing the difficult parts of life, empowering us to transform our challeneges into character and strength, creativity and culture. It is a inspiring "self-help" type of book for those of us who would usually be more likely to read literary criticism or classics than anything that is typically thought of as self-help.
Cheryl's performance gets better as you go along - at first her pacing was uneven with some unnecessary pauses but she fixes this quickly. It is really powerful to listen to an author telling her own story (especially for a memoir-type book... her story really is HER STORY).
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