Saturday, August 11, 2012
Description: 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: 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 faces 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. (goodreads)
Thoughts: I know you're all wondering, so I'll tell you. Yes, Cheryl Strayed made up her last name.
As a reader, I tend to be all about the protagonist. If I like the main character, or if I can at least sympathize with her, it is much more likely that I will like the book. When reading a memoir, this gets a little trickier, because (barring changes of memory caused by the passing of time or exaggerations for the sake of story) the main character is a real person, and if I don't like the main character, I feel guilty saying it. I'm just going to rip the Bandaid off right now and say it: I didn't like Cheryl. I felt bad that she lost her mom, but the wreckage that her life became was primarily of her own creation. It seemed like she never took responsibility for her own actions at any point in the narrative, so I had a hard time respecting her, despite her impressive accomplishments.
There, I feel better now. Moving on.
Despite the problems I had with the protagonist, WILD is a beautifully written book, full of moments of sharp insight. There are descriptions of sights both mundane and glorious that will leave you feeling almost like you've been there, from gorgeous mountain vistas to drab ranger stations to the blisters on Cheryl's feet. (There were moments that I wish had been less vividly described. For example, the scene where Cheryl has to put down her mother's horse was excruciating.) All this description makes me want to try some hiking, though you can bet I will start with something smaller than the Pacific Crest Trail.
I wish the book had a slightly different ending. Everything felt so abrupt, and I was expecting more of a wrap up "and this is why I'm telling you this story" section. But I guess that's life, and this is a book about life lessons. Overall, I loved the parts where Cheryl was talking about the trail, and was less enthralled with her mental wanderings through her personal struggles. Yet every once in a while, there's an paragraph of such wisdom and clarity that the meanderings are worthwhile. (4/5)
Content concerns: Drug and alcohol abuse, sexual situations. The scene where the horse dies may have traumatized me for life. Recommend for adults and mature teens 17+.