My enjoyment rating: 4 of 5 stars (initially I was going to give it a 3)
Book hangover rating: 1 of 5 stars (I was ready for her journey to end).
Source: Personal copy
Objectionable material: Language (including the F-bomb); sexual situations; drug use.
Completely shattered by the death of her mother, Cheryl Strayed’s life hits bottom: she embarks on an adulterous lifestyle, divorces her husband (whom she claims to love), battles a potential heroin addiction, and becomes distant with her remaining family members.
In order to overcome her overwhelming despondence, Cheryl commits to hiking the Pacific Coast Trail, a 2600 mile trek through California, Oregon and Washington. In Wild, her successful memoir, she recounts the physical, personal, spiritual, and emotional journey she endures to reconnect with herself, and on many levels, with her mother.
This was an amazing excursion.
Admittedly poorly and underprepared, Cheryl battles horribly blistered feet, a back pack so over laden with supplies it becomes the “monster,” lack of water, late year snowstorms, rattle snakes and bears.
But fortunately, her trip is buoyed by the many strangers (who become friends) who help her along the way.
In times of difficulty, we often think of ways to “reconnect” or “find ourselves.” Most of us can get by with long weekends, or longer sabbaticals. But months long adventures are not possible. Ms. Strayed’s bravery and determination are unmatched. Especially for a woman traveling alone.
In the early days of her trek she recounts, “I knew that if I allowed fear to overtake me, my journey was doomed. Fear, to a great extent, is born of a story we tell ourselves, and so I chose to tell myself a different story from the one women are told. I decided I was safe. I was strong. I was brave. Nothing could vanquish me. Insisting on this story was a form of mind control, but for the most part, it worked. Every time I heard a sound of unknown origin or felt something horrible cohering in my imagination, I pushed it away. I simply did not let myself become afraid. Fear begets fear. Power begets power. I willed myself to beget power. And it wasn’t long before I actually wasn’t afraid…I was working too hard to be afraid.”
That was my favorite passage of the whole book.
The only issue I had with the book: after weeks (which turned into months) on the trail, I grew a bit weary reading about her hike – it became much of the same -- waiting for supplies at the next outpost, hunger, blisters, setting up camp – same situation, different location.
But it is a bold book about, as Ms. Strayed says, “learning to bear what you cannot bear.”