Aside from marrying my husband and having my children, hiking the PCT was the best thing I ever did. The hike very literally forced me to put one foot in front of the other at a time when emotionally I didn’t think I could do that. You have to keep walking, no matter what. – Cheryl Strayed
My Quickie Summary: Proceeding her mother’s death, a divorce, sexual awakening, and heroin habit, Cheryl Stayed decides to hike the Pacific Coast Trail (PCT) to sort out her mind state—without a real plan.
Their Summary: At twenty-two, 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. With no experience or training, driven only by blind will, she would hike more than a thousand miles of the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to Washington State—and she would do it alone. Told with suspense and style, sparkling with warmth and humor, Wild powerfully captures the terrors and pleasures of one young woman forging ahead against all odds on a journey that maddened, strengthened, and ultimately healed her.
Thoughts on the Book: Wild had the potential to maintain my initial interest, or so I believed. I don’t hike or do outdoorsy type stuff and honestly wasn’t familiar with the Pacific Coast Trail (PCT) until this book. After reading the summary, I couldn’t help but wonder what happened to her out on that trail that would make Oprah not only select her book for her book club, but also that would make so many other people read it. Well, I found out for myself that Oprah’s stamp of approval may not suit my tastes.
Cheryl Strayed begins her memoir with her mother’s death and then shifts through a divorce with Paul, a man she’d been married to since the age of 19. After dealing with promiscuity and a developing heroin habit, she decides to hike the PCT to get her mind and life back. When she begins this hike, what drove me was that she didn’t have a real plan. She admitted to the stupidity of this as often as it entered my own head. Her backpack was too big, her boots too small, and overall she just wasn’t prepared. I kept reading to see how she’d overcome these shortcomings, but then the book started to read like this:
blah, blah, blah, backpack too big, blah, blah, blah, my feet hurt, blah, blah, blah, can’t get this song out of my head, blah, blah, blah, trees, blah, blah, blah, animal, blah, blah, blah, hungry/thristy, blah, blah, blah, met a kind stranger, blah, blah, blah, sexy man, blah, blah, blah, I stink, blah blah, blah, I really stink, blah, blah, blah, burn another book, blah, blah, blah, strangers gave me a ride, blah, blah, blah, too much snow must detour, blah, blah, blah, I’m broke and want a Snapple lemonade, blah, blah, blah, ex-husband is so supportive, blah, blah, blah, memories of mama, blah, blah, blah–I DID IT!
I don’t read erotica/romance, so I must also admit that it’s sad when I’m hoping for a sex scene to add a little spice to a book–especially a memoir. The really unfortunate part is that when I got one, I was sourly disappointed. That said, at about page 130 I started skipping around until, with an eye barely open, I found my face plastered to the final page. I read that page, closed the book and decided to move on with my reading life. Did I miss anything? Doubt it.
Wild Excerpt: Each day I felt as if I were looking up from the bottom of a deep well. But from that well, I set about becoming a solo wilderness trekker. And why not? I’d been so many things already. A loving wife and an adulteress. A beloved daughter who now spent holidays alone. An ambitious overachiever and aspiring writer who hopped from one meaningless job to the next while dabbling dangerously with drugs and sleeping with too many men. I was the granddaughter of a Pennsylvania coal miner, the daughter of a steelworker turned salesman. After my parents split up, I loved with my mother, brother, and sister in apartment complexes populated by single mothers and their kids. As a teen, I lived back-to-the-land style in the Minnesota northwoods in a house that didn’t have an indoor toilet, electricity, or running water. In spite of this, I’d become a high school cheerleader and homecoming queen, and then I went off to college and became a left-wing feminist campus radical.
But a woman who walks alone in the wilderness for eleven hundred miles? I’d never even anything like that before. I had nothing to lose by giving it a whirl.
Cheryl Strayed on Writing: I often recommend writing as a tool for self-discovery because it’s helped me so much. I use writing in different ways: I write as an artist but I also write when I’m just trying to work through something or make a tough decision. And I think, a lot of times, even people who aren’t writers will write in crisis. They’ll write in their journals after breaking up with someone, even though they haven’t written for two years. That’s because it’s a way to essentially practice your thoughts and see what’s there. Writing forces you to locate your clarity.
You know, I think A Piece of Cake by Cupcake Brown would have been an excellent selection for Oprah’s Book Club–a crackhead turned lawyer? Tell me that’s not an inspiring memoir. Anyway, somebody better recommend something good for me to read soon–and not Oprah.
Happy reading, y’all.