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Publisher's Summary

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

Critic Reviews

“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)

What members say

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  • Debi B
  • Orange County, CA
  • 11-12-12

Not Wild about Wild

Would you try another book from Cheryl Strayed and/or Bernadette Dunne?

nope - not for me

Would you ever listen to anything by Cheryl Strayed again?

nope - not for me

What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

just not that exciting for me. read/listened to the full thing because of book club but wouldn't have finished otherwise.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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SLOOOWWW story

What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

The story itself just drug on. I couldn't even finish listening because no one in there right mind would be this unprepared and to listen almost half way through and still talking about the same stuff that I heard over and over again. I just couldn't do it. the story was a waste of my time. Not enough adventure.

What was most disappointing about Cheryl Strayed’s story?

Everything

What three words best describe Bernadette Dunne’s voice?

It was fine

What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

disappointment-not a good listen

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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A decent book desperately in need of an editor

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.

26 of 34 people found this review helpful

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  • Bonnie
  • SAINT PAUL, MINNESOTA, United States
  • 05-02-12

Didn't care for this book - wasn't able to finish

Any additional comments?

I thought this would be one of my favorite books and I really wanted to like it - it had everything - outdoors, hiking, female lead character, etc. So why couldn't I finish it? First of all, there were a couple of instances where I thought my iPhone fast forwarded on its own - she was hiking the trail and all of a sudden it was several days later - I had no idea what happened in between when she started and felt like I had missed something. Then there was what I felt was a flippant reference to an abortion, however, I figured her decisions and struggles might be reconciled on the trail and the story would get back to that later (near the end). I was still "struggling" through until a scene involving a horse - I turned it off and never went back. Disappointing.

17 of 22 people found this review helpful

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UGH

Part boring, part completely unbelievable with a very few little sparks of her actually coming to grips with her life.

Some of the things that drove me insane about this book:

-- The boots that didn’t fit but didn’t slow her down at all then there were her toenails and the ripping of them off and that didn’t slow her down either. Then hiking the mountains in sandals covered in duct tape, come on, really?

--All the men she thought wanted to have sex with her, honey you have been hiking through the mountains you are dirty, sweaty and just plain nasty, this is all in your head!

-- She also seemed to have the quickest and easiest heroin withdrawal of anyone I’ve ever heard of, she just decided one day to quit and never had a single withdrawal symptom or DT’s or anything

--Do I really care that you are too tired to even masturbate? No, really, No, I never needed to know that and why you chose to keep that in the book makes no sense to me.

Some of the things I liked about this book:

Umm well there was…..

No… wait….

Yeah there was the part…

Um no not that either

Oh what about….

No not that.


Well you get the drift.

2 stars

13 of 17 people found this review helpful

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Dingbat: Self-Absorbed and Unprepared on the PCT

Any additional comments?

20140513 ◊ As an avid backpacker, I read this book with keen interest in the story of a woman completing a solo hike of the PCT. As a meticulous trip planner and methodical researcher, I cringed through the author's descriptions of her own lack of preparation and systemic dingbattedness. The best thing I can say about this book is that Cheryl Strayed is a decent writer. The only thing I can admire about her story is the sheer tenacity she displayed by staying on the trail, even though she skipped huge chunks of the actual PCT. Narration of the audiobook by Bernadette Peters completely missed the mark; her raspy voice didn't match the story's perky protagonist.

This book left a bad taste in my mouth. The author's story is not inspirational in the slightest; I don't understand why it's getting so much attention. A shallow, spoiled brat of a woman, Strayed was only able to complete as much of the PCT as she did by relying upon the kindness of others. I was so tired of reading about how everyone fawned over her that by the time she got kicked out of the RV park for not being able to pay the camping fee, I cheered out loud. This is not the story of a strong, capable woman; it's the story of a hapless nincompoop whose only redeeming quality was a desperation-tinged determination to "complete" the PCT. Best as a cautionary tale on how not to plan a long backpacking trip, solo or otherwise.

9 of 12 people found this review helpful

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Full of herself, poor character

What would have made Wild better?

If the person had realized that she is not a tortured soul but a person who is having terrible things happen to her because she is making terrible choices that hurt other people and cause her to be isolated. There is no reason to care for the author.

What could Cheryl Strayed have done to make this a more enjoyable book for you?

I would like to have heard about her walk on the trail in less than 1.5 hours of the book.

What do you think the narrator could have done better?

Narrator was great. No complaints.

You didn’t love this book... but did it have any redeeming qualities?

Not really.

9 of 12 people found this review helpful

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Disappointing

Would you try another book from Cheryl Strayed and/or Bernadette Dunne?

Probably not Cheryl Strayed, but Bernadette Dunne did as good a job as a narrator could with the material.

Has Wild turned you off from other books in this genre?

No.

What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

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.

42 of 59 people found this review helpful

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  • Lynne
  • Lakewood, CO, United States
  • 12-13-12

Please let it be over!

What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

The only way would be if it were a completely different book and reader.

What do you think your next listen will be?

Something by Jasper Fforde - his books and his reader have been recommended to me by a friend.

What didn’t you like about Bernadette Dunne’s performance?

I didn't like the tone of her voice, especially when she was quoting someone. It sounded particularly insipid then.

What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

My reactions: relief that I was listening to it instead of reading it, so that I could get other things done like cleaning and it wasn't a complete waste of time; irritation that I had to spend any time on it at all, but I had agreed to read it for a spirituality group. Boy, was that a poor choice for that group!

Any additional comments?

Slight spoiler alert: I would almost rather lose six toenails than ever again read or listen to anything by anyone as self-absorbed as this author.

8 of 11 people found this review helpful

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This Book Is About Personal Growth - Not the PCT

Would you try another book from Cheryl Strayed and/or Bernadette Dunne?

I wouldn't try another from the author, but definitely would from Ms Dunne.

What was most disappointing about Cheryl Strayed’s story?

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.

What about Bernadette Dunne’s performance did you like?

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.

Do you think Wild needs a follow-up book? Why or why not?

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.

Any additional comments?

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.

26 of 37 people found this review helpful