Wild is a powerful, blazingly honest memoir: the story of an 1100-mile solo hike that broke down a young woman reeling from catastrophe - and built her back up again.
At 22, 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: to hike the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to Washington State - and to do it alone. She had no experience as a long-distance hiker, and the trail was little more than “an idea, vague and outlandish and full of promise.” But it was a promise of piecing back together a life that had come undone.
Strayed faced down rattlesnakes and black bears, intense heat and record snowfalls, and both the beauty and loneliness of the trail. Told with great suspense and style, sparkling with warmth and humor, Wild vividly captures the terrors and pleasures of one young woman forging ahead against all odds on a journey that maddened, strengthened, and ultimately healed her.
©2012 Cheryl Strayed (P)2012 Random House
“No one can write like Cheryl Strayed. Wild is one of the most unflinching and emotionally honest books I've read in a long time. It is about forgiveness and grief, bravery and hope. It is unforgettable.” (Ann Hood, author of The Knitting Circle)
“While reading Cheryl Strayed’s stunning book about her arduous solo journey along the Pacific Crest Trail, I kept asking myself - what would I do if I were stripped bare of everything - money, job, community, even family and love? Thoreau once said, ‘In wildness is the preservation of the world.’ For Strayed, it is clear that in wildness was the preservation of her soul. She reminds us, in her lyrical and courageous memoir Wild, of what it means to be fully alive, even in the face of catastrophe, physical and psychic hardship, and loss." (Mira Bartók, author of The Memory Palace)
“Cheryl Strayed can sure tell a story. In Wild, she describes her journey from despair to transcendence with honesty, humor, and heart-cracking poignancy. This is a great book.” (Mary Pipher, author of Reviving Ophelia and Seeking Peace)
It's hard to give this book a bad review, because I really can't blame it on the author as much as the editors at Random House for releasing it this way. The book is a story of the author's 1995 trek along the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) following a divorce, the cancer death of her mother and a self-destructive meltdown in the modern world. It follows a very unprepared, ill-suited and (ultimately) very lucky, 26 year-old author as she decides to hike the PCT from the Mojave Desert to the Bridge of the Gods on the Oregon/Washington border. The book sells itself as a "wilderness adventure" book, even from the cover, but it belongs better in women's contemporary non-fiction.
The book got the Oprah Book club seal of approval during the time I was listening to it, and you can see why. It is an unabashed woman's perspective on a bucket list challenge. In the end, you can't help but feel torn between what is essentially a wonderful coming of womanhood odyssey and a book chockablock with short stories that have as much focus and direction as a shotgun blast.
Sadly, at a point only four hours from the end of the book, I was so utterly exasperated with what was devolving into a Harlequin romance novel that I almost stopped listening altogether. I stuck it out only to conclude that reaching the end of this book was every bit the analogy to walking the PCT itself.
First, the good parts: Strayed manages the impossible of hiking a majority of a really tough wilderness trail with little experience. She comes to terms with her distractingly untamed libido, former drug use and family issues along the way. Her raw honesty regarding her personal issues was gripping. The listener is truly thrust into her dysfunctional universe headlong.
The bad parts: The book's flow is continually disrupted by the author's insanely voracious libido. At one point nine hours into the audio book as she crosses into Ashland, Oregon, you can just skip an hour of listening and not miss anything. It's soft core porn, not a hiking novel. In fact, you'll probably appreciate the book better that way.
One would think this would be about how an ill-prepared young lady overcame the adversity facing her and rose to the challenge, ultimately steeling herself. But it's the opposite. In almost every possible situation where she can attempt to use her charm or fall back on the fact that she was an overwhelmed young woman in need of the kindness of strangers, she plays the Blanche Du Bois card. I'll give credit where credit is due, but she whines an awful lot.
Substantively, Strayed begins the trail in the Mojave Desert, not in Mexico where it actually begins. She then hitchhikes, in cars and on busses, considerable stretches off the trail. Ultimately, Strayed ends her trek on the Washington/Oregon border - far short of the PCT's Canadian terminus. Functionally, she hiked only around ONE HALF of the trail. You can't help but feel a little cheated by the descriptions of the novel.
Formwise, there are some powerful and very evocative scenes, such as when her horse Lady was put down or when she was robbed for $20 while stoned out of her mind. For the life of me, I could not amalgamate several scenes like these with the rest of the book. They didn't really offer any insight into her character development. There were moments of brilliant writing with no overarching direction to them.
The telling got a little labored at times, as well. The narrator had this way of reading where she deepened her voice, making every male character sound the same. At times, it felt like listening to the puppets from Mr. Roger's Neighborhood as a kid.
I really wanted to give this book five stars when I started it and for most of the book it held out. If you are going to invest 13 hours of your life on this, be prepared for what you are going to get. In the end, I felt this pulled out a 2.5 star rating overall.
Wild is an example of memoir at its best because of the emotional experience woven into the challenges of the hike.A good book for me is one that keeps me thinking about the story and/or the writing even when I've turned off my listening device. It's a book I dream about. . . one that relates to my own experience but also helps me better understand my own life. And it's a book that makes me re-examine choices or make decisions about things I'm doing or going to do. Wild does all of this.
This is a book I'm compelled to encourage others to read because I want to talk about the writing, the story, and what it made me think.
Bernadette Dunne does a fine job of reading the text, shifting tone to meet the moment, be it fear, enthusiasm, grief, or sexy. She was a convincing narrator.
I just wasn't blown away by this book. Interesting enough story, but I just couldn't really feel any empathy for Cheryl.
English major. Love to read
Sometimes I feel like my life interrupts my book reading. This was such a time. This book completely swept me up - I love spending time in the outdoors, especially in the mountains and I live in the Northwest, but I think you could live in India and enjoy this book. You get to know Cheryl Strayed inside and out -- she is honest and genuine and on a quest which changes as she walks on the PCT. Cheryl is reflective and insightful - notice how I call her Cheryl? Her opening up to the reader is woven in and out of a modern adventure story but one which is plausible in our time. I am thankful that, once again, I was sad for this book to end - as a matter of fact, I listened to the last two chapters twice just to say good bye.
The only reason I read this book was because my daughter in law gave it to me, you know how family politics go. It was a delightful surprise. As a life long runner and walker, most of it being along the coast of Northern California, I was leery of how one could make a walk involving enough to fill an entire novel. So often these sorts of books are fueled by bragging rights, and spend far too many pages on how tough is the hiker, who is out there due to preferring the wild to people. (Tedium often ensues.)
Cheryl Strayed (yes, she named herself) pens a story infinitely engrossing. Though the sadness surrounding her mother lasted a bit longer than was comfortable, or interesting, the rest of her story was funny and captivating, making a very satisfying read. That it's a true story made it also an inspiring tale. Her creativity and endurance with ill fitting foot wear was wondrously humorous and, well, totally awesome!
I rate as follows: 5 Stars = Loved it. 4 Stars = Really liked it. 3 Stars = Liked it. 2 Stars = Didn't like it. 1 Star = Hated it.
Having read some of the reviews prior to starting this novel for myself, I was prepared for the fact that the narrative was not strictly focused on the adventure of the hike. For me, that was in no way a deal-breaker; in fact, I prefer the book as it is, showing us Cheryl's back story and history.
In my much younger days, I once found myself out of money and needing to opt for a bus ride from Philadelphia back to Phoenix, instead of traveling by air. The trip ended up being a real revelation for me; because rather than stepping onto a plane at one end of the country and magically stepping off at the other end some hours later, I instead spent days gradually watching the landscape change. When I finally arrived in Phoenix, I understood - in a way I had not understood previously - how I had gotten there.
I thought of that trip a great deal both while listening to this story, and reading some of the reviews that expressed disappointment that more focus was not put on the trail. In my opinion, the real value was in seeing Cheryl's history; in understanding how she had gotten to the place in her life that led her TO the trail. That was what gave the PCT trip meaning for me, and I appreciated being able to understand her full journey - both the journey of the trail, and the larger journey of her life and experiences that led her there.
This story constantly had me day-dreaming of starting a trip like this myself, even while I knew how outlandish the idea would be. The adventure took me in, and I loved it. I'm grateful the author was brave and open enough to share her experiences and decisions, the good and the bad. The journey would have little meaning without it.
This book had so much potential and, indeed, portions of it were very good. It is an autobiography of the author, Cheryl Strayed. At age 45, she decides to hike the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) as an escape and a way to find herself after her mother dies, and she divorces her husband. She has various affairs and gets hooked on drugs (heroin). Her life is a mess and the hike is a way to start anew. I am a hiker, and I really enjoyed the narrative when she is hiking. The story goes back to her mother, her married life (which wasn???t bad), and her affairs throughout the story. I wasn???t a fan of the regular use of the language throughout the book and her graphic verbiage used to describe the ???sex??? she had with others. She F*@% him, and F*@% him, and F*@% him. You get the drift. I get she had affairs, but why the strong language? Why do you have to tell us you haven???t even masturbated once during your hike? Who cares! You can get the same point across without all the hyperbole. I just about bailed on the book a few times.
As I kept reading, I was captivated by how the journey was making her stronger and really molding her as a new person. She was a novice hiker and packed her pack too heavy and could barely hike a few miles in a day in the beginning, and eventually going 20 miles in a day. She lost half of her toenails and strengthened her body. There was enough story there to balance out the other crap. I was waiting for the finish, thinking it really made a difference of who she had become. It ended with a fizzle. No really strong revelations. No big ah-ha moment. No lesson learned. Very disappointed with the ending. Overall, it was just okay.
Tell us about yourself!
If I can describe wild in a couple of words, I would say its a diary of a long distance hiker. In wild, cheryl Strayed narrates her hike on the PCT from the day she started preparing for it till she reaches her destination.
Cheryl Strayed's mother died of cancer when she was 21. She never got over it and couldn't just move on. She was then on a mission to destroy herself starting from commiting adultry to heroine. She then decided that she had to stop that and start somewhere. And so came the decision to hike the PCT. And to hike it alone. She was poorly prepared for it although hiking the PCT takes several months! But going through the hardships of the hike made her stronger and got her to accept her mother's death.
But her past life and the reason she hiked the PCT are just glimpses in the book and it is mainly a memoire of her journey on the PCT. She describes the hardships she encountered there, the people she met, how she went through each day and survived it. Wild is a good description of long distantance hikes, the prepations for it and how it is done; starting from using the water purifier to sending yourself boxes at every stop to supply yourself.
The hike was tough and challenging. I admire her for not quitting in the middle as a lot of people do that. And I admire her more for doing it alone. She even stayed alone when she could have accompanied other hikers (but she needed the solitude)
The hardships she went through on the hike, the struggle to stay alive each day is what made her accept what she's done to her life and to other people. It made her feel strong enough to move one. To accept life and become prepared for it.
Through out wild She is brutally and hilariously honest in everything she says! She tells about her one night stands and everything that came to her mind then.
Reading wild makes me want to go on a long distance hike!
The book is light and enjoyable. It's a good read if you are looking for something fun. I gave it three starts as there is no message in it, there is nothing that provokes your thinking, it doesn't serve a bigger purpose. Nothing philosophical in it. It's a good book but it's not literature. And that's why I gave it a three starts and not a four.
Probably not Cheryl Strayed, but Bernadette Dunne did as good a job as a narrator could with the material.
Mostly, I was happy when it ended. The author did not inspire empathy. Although the descriptions of the trail and her journey were at times interesting, her utter unpreparedness for the trail came across as ridiculous. She struck me as a somewhat shallow person, and not particularly bright. Her expression of grief at the loss of her mother was touching, but if that grief supposedly inspired the journey and triggered some of her uninhibited behavior prior, it was unconvincing.
The narrator was very good. Overall, for me this one will be forgotten entirely.
I wouldn't try another from the author, but definitely would from Ms Dunne.
The idea of hearing about her adventures on the Pacific Crest Trail was exciting, but the book was really about her relationship with her family, personal exploration and coming to terms with grief.
Ms Dunne is a solid performer to whom I would listen again. I've enjoyed her reading in the past, and look forward to it in the future.
This book needs an editor. I'm not sure who the audience should be, but as an outdoors person it wasn't directed to me. Ms Strayed's experiments with heroin use lent color to the story, and contributed to a general understanding of her as a character. With that said, I bought the book for the story of her encounters with nature, and that was covered in this book with no need for follow-up.
I reviewed this book after listening to several interviews with the author. I was considering it as a book we might offer to customers in our park visitor centers. I was interested enough to have my attention held by the book, but found it unsuitable as an offering in a nature-related book store. The author's language is colorful (I consider four-letter words colorful when used in context), but her sexual exploits and drug experiments take the course of the book from a wilderness, nature experience to one describing personal awareness as the central theme.
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