A review of Cheryl Strayed’s memoir
Cheryl Strayed was a disillusioned woman when she decided to hike 1100 miles on the Pacific Crest Trail. Her mother’s death three years earlier and her recent divorce had left her heartbroken. Then, on a rough winter day, while she was waiting in line in an outdoor store, she picked up the book Pacific Crest Trail, Volume 1: California. She eventually replaced it on the shelves without purchasing it, but she got back to the store later and bought it. It was an apparently insignificant decision, but one that would change her life. In June 1995, she started hiking the PCT in Mojave. She had lived with her family in the woods of Minnesota in a home with no electricity and no running water, but nothing could have prepared her for the trail. Yet she learned. She survived, and she matured.
Wild is so much more than the story of hiking the PCT; it’s a story of grief and hope, of a broken family and resilience. The narrative brilliantly blends Cheryl’s journey on the trail and glimpses of her troubled past that had led her to the PCT. She needed to spend time alone, and she nails the subject of solitude with acuity. “Alone had always felt like an actual place to me, as if it weren’t a state of being, but a room where I could retreat to be who I really was.”
I have read Wild often in the past years, and it represents a solace for me; even though I haven’t hiked the PCT and don’t intend to do so, I can relate to Cheryl Strayed and her struggles. One of the greatest strengths of Wild is the honesty of its author; she writes with a nakedness sometimes too much to bear. However, that strength also irritates some people — they were expecting a book only on hitchhiking the PCT. It’s rather a personal story, heartbreaking, but filled with brightness. That’s why this book can be an inspiration, especially for women who need to know they are not alone in their pain.