Book Review: Wild by Cheryl Strayed

I’ve been on a non-fiction kick for the last few book reviews. This is no exception.

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail,
by Cheryl Strayed, awakened something in me that has been dormant for a long time. This memoir has shown me that there is still a lot that I can accomplish as long as I keep at it.

Cheryl had an average upbringing. Mother, siblings and stepfather. She went to school, and she helped around the house. She met Paul at nineteen and fell in love. They got married, they travelled, and they were perfect for each other. Then her mother fell ill with Cancer. After her mother passed very quickly, Cheryl was a shell of herself. She didn’t finish University because she moved back home to try to keep her family from falling apart. After over a year of trying, Cheryl was not able to, and her family that she once was so close to, floated out of her life.

Cheryl felt lost. Paul was supportive and patient, however, Cheryl fell deeper into herself. A series of affairs and drug use was the end of her marriage. But a chance encounter with a hiking book entitled, The Pacific Crest Trail, Volume I: California, caught her attention. Cheryl needed to do something with her life to slay all the demons that had been haunting her to rest. It was six months of saving, buying the equipment that the people at the outdoors shop told her she needed, and then she was ready.

Armed with the largest, and heaviest pack that any hiker has ever endured, Cheryl started her trek. When she started talking about the hiking, it took me back to when I was a kid. Our father would take us all out every Sunday to hiking trails. Hot or cold, it didn’t matter, we were dressed for the weather. I can remember as far back as seven and eight doing this, but I cant tell you how young I was when the Sunday hikes started. When I say hikes, I mean hikes. They were miles long, on wooded paths. There were bugs, and steep hills and the walking went on forever.

My father stands at six foot six inches tall, so his legs were as long as we were tall. We almost had to jog to keep pace with him. By the time we had hiked back to the car, we were spent. I did not know one other person in my entire school (except for my brothers) that were doing this as frequently as we were. I am glad that I didn’t have an extremely heavy pack to deal with, but I could connect with her feeling out of shape and sore. Cheryl encountered blistering heat, rattlesnakes and the elements. She uses humor and passion to make you feel that you’re hiking the trail with her. At times I even could feel the heat of the desert, and I cried when her mother died.

At the time of her hike, she was the first woman to attempt the journey as a solo female. But that is what Cheryl needed. Throughout the book there were opportunities to join other hikers, but she continued to hike the trail alone. I admire that. Even the woods that I hiked as a kid I would not hike, to this day, alone.I found this book  making me long for quests not taken. My first real trip anywhere was my honeymoon to Cuba. I’ve visited relatives out East but I have never accomplished anything in my life that would come close to the journey that Cheryl embarked upon.

I have told my husband when our kids are fully grown, I would like to spend a full year up in the Northern Canadian woods. Having to fish and grow some of our food to make sure that supplies last through the harsh winters that befall the region every year. This book rekindled my wanting to enjoy the world around me. To see it, not just fly over it. I know there is a movie about this book. It was nominated for a slew of awards including two Oscar nods. I wanted to experience the book first. I feel that movies don’t always capture the best parts of the book that we connect with. After reading the book, I am going to watch the movie. It moved me that much.

An inspiring book for women, because Cheryl accomplished something that was seen before as a male dominated achievement, but without training. She survived with her tenacity to keep moving. Since reading this book I have thought back to those hikes. I called up my father, and asked him if he would be free for a Sunday in May. I think that it’s time for my children to get a taste of the trails. Since I’m bringing my three kids (my husband works on Sundays) it is the excuse I gave my dad for wanting him to come. So I don’t have to walk in the woods alone.

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