A profound and moving pilgrimage through the wilderness of grief, Cheryl Strayed’s Wild is one of the best American memoirs to emerge in years. After the shock of her mother’s unexpected death, 25-year-old Strayed is profoundly lost in the world, her family shattered. In the tradition of Thoreau and Kerouac, she finds herself again by hitting the road, or in this case, through-hiking 1,100 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail through California and Oregon.
Painfully funny and honest, Strayed documents the sheer stupidity of her early days on the trail, when her pack weighs upwards of 70 pounds and she fills her camp-stove with the wrong kind of gas. But mile by mile, and toenail by lost toenail, she grows stronger and smarter and lighter as she experiences how the extreme physical suffering of long-distance hiking eases the intense emotional suffering that brought her to it. She realizes that her instinct to walk the PCT was “a primal grab for a cure,” an attempt to create a new self and life from the ruins of the old. This reinvention extends to her new name, “Strayed,” which she chooses because “I had strayed and I was a stray . . . from the wild places my straying had brought me, I knew things I couldn’t have known before.”
As “Dear Sugar” advice columnist for The Rumpus, Cheryl Strayed is beloved for her compassionate wisdom. With Wild, we now witness the crucible that forged that hard-won knowledge. On the PCT, the loneliness of grief evolves into a visionary state of solitude: “Alone wasn’t a room anymore, but the whole wide world, and now I was alone in that world, occupying it in a way I never had before.” Even so, “trail angels” begin to reveal themselves to her, people who offer water, food or companionship—stations along the lonely way.
Wild is never simply a survival memoir, although it offers up many a thrilling incident—bears, rattlesnakes, dehydration, blisters, weather—to compel the reader’s attention. It is also a guidebook for living in the world, introducing a vibrant new American voice with a deceptively simple message: Go outside and take a hike.Copyright 2012 BookPage Reviews.
Another how-I-healed-myself memoir--but consider the source: Strayed is the author of Torch, a lyric yet tough-minded first novel that got some attention, and the story is arresting. Shattered at 26 by her mother's death and the end of her marriage, she did something way out of the realm of her experience--she took a solo 1100-mile hike. Wish I had her guts.[Page 59]. (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Strayed delves into memoir after her fiction debut, Torch. She here recounts her experience hiking the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) in 1995 after her mother's death and her own subsequent divorce. Designated a National Scenic Trail in 1968 but not completed until 1993, the PCT runs from Mexico to Canada, and Strayed hiked sections of it two summers after it was officially declared finished. She takes readers with her on the trail, and the transformation she experiences on its course is significant: she goes from feeling out of her element with a too-big backpack and too-small boots to finding a sense of home in the wilderness and with the allies she meets along the way. Readers will appreciate her vivid descriptions of the natural wonders near the PCT, particularly Mount Hood, Crater Lake, and the Sierras--what John Muir proclaimed the "Range of Light." VERDICT This book is less about the PCT and more about Strayed's own personal journey, which makes the story's scope a bit unclear. However, fans of her novel will likely enjoy this new book. [See Prepub Alert, 10/1/11.]--Karen McCoy, Northern Arizona Univ. Lib., Flagstaff[Page 119]. (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
In the summer of 1995, at age 26 and feeling at the end of her rope emotionally, Strayed resolved to hike solo the Pacific Crest Trail, a 2,663-mile wilderness route stretching from the Mexican border to the Canadian and traversing nine mountain ranges and three states. In this detailed, in-the-moment re-enactment, she delineates the travails and triumphs of those three grueling months. Living in Minneapolis, on the verge of divorcing her husband, Strayed was still reeling from the sudden death four years before of her mother from cancer; the ensuing years formed an erratic, confused time "like a crackling Fourth of July sparkler." Hiking the trail helped decide what direction her life would take, even though she had never seriously hiked or carried a pack before. Starting from Mojave, Calif., hauling a pack she called the Monster because it was so huge and heavy, she had to perform a dead lift to stand, and then could barely make a mile an hour. Eventually she began to experience "a kind of strange, abstract, retrospective fun," meeting the few other hikers along the way, all male; jettisoning some of the weight from her pack and burning books she had read; and encountering all manner of creature and acts of nature from rock slides to snow. Her account forms a charming, intrepid trial by fire, as she emerges from the ordeal bruised but not beaten, changed, a lone survivor. Agent: Janet Silver, Zachary Shuster Harmsworth Agency. (Mar.)[Page ]. Copyright 2011 PWxyz LLC