Wild is the story of Cheryl Strayed as she deals with a family tragedy amidst the ruins of an essentially broken, though all too familiar, modern American family. Almost whimsically, in her mid-twenties, she undertakes to hike the Pacific Crest Trail from California to Oregon.
Strayed waited a number of years before she actually wrote this book, since the events in it take place in the mid-1990s and earlier. I wish more authors had that kind of patience, since the passage of time helps to tell her story from a perspective of maturity and understanding. While Strayed's 1990s character is in fact, wild, sometimes disturbingly so, we can understand her motives because our contemporary narrator is older, wiser, and compassionate toward her younger, very impetuous self. Admirably, she refrains from inserting her present self into the story, even though I am sure the temptation to invoke a myriad number of do-overs due to choices poorly made was strong. This book is honestly written, I think.
The quality of the writing is excellent, and details are very fine. I found myself wondering what kind of notes she must have kept from so many years ago to create such an intricately described story.
I have to say that some of her memories of youth and family are uncomfortable and made me wince. I was happy to get back into the hike with Cheryl, where sore feet, dehydration, and a variety of fascinating characters encountered on the trail kept me up chapter after chapter. In 'Wild', there is a continuous pattern of things remembered while hiking, and then more hiking while dealing with the present, which creates an inward and an outward journey. There are some real parallels between the pain of the trail and the pain of childhood and early adolescence, and in the end, the trail's discomforts are much more rewarding.
I loved this book. I will probably listen again. The narrator is excellent, and I was sorry when it ended, painful as some sections are.
The story of the largest (by area) forest fire in the history of the United States, in 1910, this book is a historical narrative and is entertaining and educational all at once.
I had no idea about the history of the US Forest Service, and if you had asked if I wanted to know that history, my answer would have been "no, thanks". But serve that history up in between big meaty slabs of human nature, stories of heroism and endurance, and I am tucking it away.
I found the portrayals of Theodore Roosevelt and his successor, William Taft, to be fascinating. I think too that there is a parallel, intentioned or not, in contrasts between these administrations and more recent and familiar ones. There is also something reassuring about the fact that the US had trouble finding the resources to not only fight the fires once they started, but to manage the forest resources properly before and after the Big Burn. The more things change, the more they stay the same.
This book is worth spending time with if you enjoy US History, or the history of the Pacific Northwest. It makes me want to visit that area and find out more about the event. I will search this author out because the book was well written and colorful.
I enjoyed this book. My problem is really with the moral landscape of its author. Kevin Mitnick is not a sympathetic character, at all. What intrigues me about his book is his still apparent air of condescension when he refers to one of his adversaries catching him stealing or lying. After all, he's not really a thief or a liar. He's just a joy-rider on the information highway. As readers, we're invited along for the ride. What fun!
There is real irony when he mentions how law enforcement officials must have something better to do with their time than pursue him. (Uhm-- yes they do, Kevin-- but you need to be stopped). When he hacks into his ex-wife's answering machine to discover that she is seeing someone else, he comments in dismay at her apparent betrayal: "...Where's the trust...?"
I have to wonder if he actually understands himself, even now as he wrote this book-- and how skewed his perception of his actions appears to be. Mitnick justifies his actions by stating that he did no harm, and never gained monetarily. Well, at least not until the publication of his books.
Still, this is a fascinating look at the pre-Internet world of modems, call-back numbers, back-up tapes and mainframe systems on raised floors. More importantly though, it is a telling portrayal of how easily people can be used to reveal small details and secrets that allow Mitnick access to systems and places that he has no right to be. He calls it "Social Engineering"; really just taking advantage of the very human desire to be helpful.
The book is very well narrated. I could not stop listening.
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