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)
Short, Simple, No Spoilers
I am probably one of the last people to read and review this book because I tend to shy away from most Oprah selections. Yes, Oprah has inspired thousands to pick up a book who otherwise might not have and catapulted authors into super stardom and for that I applaud her and am thankful. I just tend to stray from over-hyped books at first. There, I said it; please don't hate me.
This selection was wonderful and here is why I enjoyed it. At 26, Cheryl was divorced from a man she loved; lost her supportive mother to cancer; abusive father left around age 6; disconnected from siblings; and was pulling out of a previous spiral into the world of heroin. Finding herself in a dark place, she turned to the guide for hiking the Pacific Coast Trail as many people turn to the Bible or any other source of enlightenment to find themselves.
Strayed shares abundant, almost copious details from her 2 months journey, laying out all the ugly and pretty inbetween with a raw, soul-searching style. You embark on the ill-planned journey of her life in addition to the hiking trip and travel not only through the rough terrain and mishaps, but deep into her soul searching. I don't find her self-involved or Godless, merely honest and I enjoyed each and every step.
Some reviewers disliked the narrator and I admit I wasn't crazy about her voice at first. If Cheryl was 26, I was thrown how the narrator's gravely older voice didn't match. However after the first 30 minutes, was hooked. Grew to think of her as the present day Cheryl recounting the past.
If you read and enjoy this title, download or pick up a copy of Mary Karr's, "Lit."
So hooked by audio that I have to read books aloud. *If my reviews help, please let me know.
Previous reviews have made it clear, this is not a wilderness/adventure, it's not Into the Wild. The title is an adjective describing the author--the book, a personal journey with the PCT being a backdrop,--the backpack "Monster", probably a metaphor for Strayed's emotional load. Had there been reviews when I picked this book up, I might have made a different choice, but am glad now that I stumbled upon this. It was entertaining, moving, and frank; the writing was well done; the narration interpretted nicely.
Strayed writes about a difficult early life, leading up to the PCT choice, with detailed clarity, providing a more dimensional emotional component to the characters because of her adult recall some 20 years later. In spite of a "wild" personal lifestyle (at the time) she still writes the characters with honesty, even warmth and humor. She describes a pretty rough and amoral young woman, as well as some characters, in the community of trail nomads, that use the F-bomb in every part of speech known--and a few more. She doesn't pander for sympathy, she doesn't shrink from possible judgement--which she could easily do; but her writing style is as brave as her undertaking the PCT.
Only 3 stars?...I thought this a good read, but wouldn't pass it along unless someone was already considering the book. While giving such an honest account of her personal journey was brave, as Strayed described the trail at times--parts of her journey were "tedious". The parallel story of the actual hike? A brave undertaking with equal parts of lunacy involved; or at the very least, based on her lifestyle at the time and drug use, some wreckless disrespect for nature that realistically carries some weight regarding "bravery". I would caution readers: the passage dealing with putting down the mother's horse is brutal to the point of being traumatic, and impacted me immensely, even though I have witnessed such an event. I almost put down my ipod and quit; while a necessary event, I question the necessity of subjecting the reader to the horrible details (but then it is her book). Understanding upfront what this book is about, I think almost every reader will like this one--some more than others.
Now that the book is over, I miss Cheryl Strayed. I loved having her in my life for 13 hours. She is so honest. She shares her dirty laundry and the good times too for the world to judge. I have a ton of respect for her. I was so impressed with every aspect of this book. I laughed and cried and gasped from shock.
Not everyone will love this book. It's very raw and without the fluff and floweryness of something like "Eat, Pray, Love."
I listened to the audio edition on a long drive alone. Then I bought the e-print book and read it aloud to my wife. Both were moving experiences.
Cheryl Strayed. I understood her grief for her mother due to similar circumstances in my life. Hiking the PCT was an (un-realized) dream of mine in my youth, and is still something I long to do. Cheryl's honesty is her most amazing trait (or at least equal to her story-telling); she somehow manages to be brutally honest, while never being in the least bit offensive.
I listened to Margarette Atwood's "The Year of the Flood." Dunne clearly has range and is very believable in both narrations. I just purchased another of her narrations in Atwood's "The Robber Bride." I am looking forward to it but am saving it for my return drive home in a few weeks' time.
Yes. But I listened to it in two sittings - it was a two day drive!
This is a book which should be read aloud. Listening to the audible version was so satisfying. And then it was amazing to find that reading it to my wife aloud was equally so. I think it has to do with the honesty of voice in the writing. The story begs to be heard.
I bought this at the last minute before a long solo drive as I knew I needed the companion of a book to get me through the miles. Admittedly, I was intrigued by the title and like many commenters here, I assumed it would be more of a travel log. I had no idea what to actually expect with regard to just how interesting (or boring) a reading it might be but took the chance anyway. Unlike many of my disappointed co-commenters, I was struck by my avid joy at having found such a gem which delivered so much more on several levels that I could ever have anticipated. Far from being disappointed to have found out that the book was not a travel log, I simply abandoned that preconception, and associated expectations, and launched with joy (and a lot of tears) into this wonderful story which was about so much more.
Cheryl didn't find lemons and make lemonade. Instead she found rattle snakes where she thought she'd find lemons, and adjusted to their rattle. She found torn feet where she thought she would find deliverance, and worked and worried through the pain of her toes and heels daily. Just as some readers here have done, she found things she hadn't expected. She dealt with the disappointments. And found pain mixed with joy mixed with discovery and fun in the bargain.
I believe a reviewer should finish a book before submitting a review. What do you think?
This book held my interest throughout. The main character is not terribly likable but that's okay as far as I'm concerned. I did want to hear about her adventures on the trail, her conflicting feelings about her family; how she was raised by her mother. I had a hard time in the beginning listening to this narrator and this brought the book down for me. Ms. Dunne has narrated other books I've listened to and I do not remember being bothered before by her voice/tone, but it took me over half this book to become accustomed to her narration style. So overall even with her annoying voice, this is a solid book and worth a listen.
I love reading, have since I was very little. Reading to me is fun, relaxation, acquiring knowledge and so much more. No particular preference for a genre or writer, I will read anything well written. Once gripped by somebodies style of storytelling & writing, I am likely to read everything he or she has written.
I am an avid mountain hiker, so when browsing Audible.com and spotting a book with a hiking boot on the cover my interest was peaked. Listened to the prologue and actually gasped, then laughed, then listened with mounting interest. I bought the book.
This is not a book about the Pacific Crest Trail and it is. I know, sounds crazy doesn't it? The PCT is the main thread, it gives the story continuity and a goal. The real story is how and why Cheryl Strayed happens to be on (or strayed onto) the trail. She takes us on her life's journey, along many of the lows, a few of the highs and shows us what lessons she took away from them.
In the telling CS is absolutely frank and honest. She tells us things most of us probably wouldn't tell our mothers, perhaps not even our best friends and certainly not total strangers. But it makes the telling even better. And she tells the story well! CS has a smooth writing and storytelling style, that drew me in. At times I found myself laughing out loud, while at others I was moved to tears and at all times I wanted to know what would be/happen next!
Bernadette Dunne does an excellent job. The narrator can add something to a book or absolutely destroy it. I've put probably perfectly good books away, because the narrator annoyed me so much I couldn't go on listening to him/her. Not BD though, she adds to the story!! At no point does she become irritating, annoying or worse. Her pleasant voice and style make reading this book an even better experience.
Sometimes the language is explicit (i.e. when CS writes about a sexual fantasy or her experiences with drugs), but never abusive, always functional and always with a lesson to be learned. Not forced upon us, but the attentive reader can pick it up easily.
Like I said before: the book is not about the »PCT« and it is. The part that is, tells us how best to prepare for a long distance hike .... or not ;-). The hiker in me gasped at her description of her first packing of her backpack, then laughed out loud when the image of her lifting it was conjured up in my head, suffered with her when she talks about her hiking boots and was not a little jealous when thinking about making a similar trip myself.
»Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail« is totally enjoyable. No lessons need to be learned if you don't want to. You can just enjoy a good reading/listening experience. Your money would not be wasted. However, all of us can take something away from this book and take a fresh look at our own lives to see where own particular »PCT« might lead. Then your money definitely won't be wasted.
So, to everyone - hiker and non-hiker alike - I say: buy this book!!
Eclectic, avid listener, favorite book is the one currently in ear.
My interest in "Wild" was the Pacific Crest Trail, not quite so much the emotional "Lost to Found" part of her story. I loved Cheryl's adventure hiking this challenging trail solo, going from an unprepared, novice... to a strong, capable hiker... nearly killing herself multiple times in the process. I loved the land and her endurance of cold and heat, thirst, hunger and blisters. I also loved understanding how the trail works. I get that the hike helped her heal emotionally from her mother's death from cancer and the collapse of her family. I liked her voice and writing skills... however, there is more in the book about the trauma and drama in her life than about the trail and hike. By the end I knew way too much about her drug abuse, childhood, divorce and libido... and as one astute reviewer warned there is a section that is soft porn and I was grateful for the fast forward. There is scattered swearing, drug use, an abortion, casual sex with just met folks and some pretty intense guilt and loss. I wouldn't recommend this book to a friend, they can find on own... but I don't regret reading it either...
The writing style is a little airy-fairy for my taste, with a few too many hallmark flourishes. And the reader's voice bugged me all the way though -- there was something sugar-coated and trying too hard to please in Dunne's voice, but she was probably a good match for the narrator -- who is struggling to break through her own flirty, girly, too eager to please persona. But a few passages in the book were so powerful and unflinching and incredibly sad they had me welling up with tears on my commute. A weird, uneven book, but strangely moving.
I have read several reviews that seem to judge the writer both for her life choices and for her lack of preparation for the extended hike and that's not going to be my theme here. Her background was trauma-filled enough prior to the PCT trip and that alone qualifies her for some odd (at the very least) and misbegotten decision-making. Perhaps her life had been so challenging and frightening before the hike, what could happen on the trip that could possibly be worse?
I kept feeling similarities to the movie "The Way" with Martin Sheen and Emilio Estevez, as the story of an extended trip by foot with no preparation, following a dramatic personal loss. The same questions emerge and are shared with others on the road - Why are you doing this? What led up to this decision? What do you hope to accomplish? - as "the path" fulfills its inevitable destiny as metaphor for the examined life, and is offered up as a pilgrimage.
The fact that she waited over ten years to write the story - and perhaps this is at least partially due to the ups and downs of getting the book published in the first place - and did it without any internet caf??s, email, tweets and Facebook status reports, makes this a significant accomplishment, done (as far as I can tell but I may have missed something) totally from memory and without benefit of a journal of any sort.
The reading is excellent - narrated by Bernadette Dunne, of whose audio work I have long been a fan and have read more by her from audible.com than almost any other narrator. She has no interpretive quirks and does a very smooth and consistent reading without any extra drama thrown in.
Whatever the reason we read, for intellectual enhancement, emotional connection, information, escape, insight into alternate perspectives - bottom line for me and any book is always "does it work?". For "Wild", I have to say "yes".
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.
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