CHERYL STRAYED Wild
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I love the story, and I love Oprah, but I hate having her perspective forced on me as I read. I'll never buy an Oprah digital book again.
But why is Wild so successful? It helps, of course, that Strayed is already a critically acclaimed author. A grant from the Oregon Arts commission to write the book certainly improved the text. Unlike many trail memoirs, this is a polished affair and clearly not composed as an afterthought to the day's work. But the main reason this book is so successful is the story of redemption it tells. Strayed's life fell apart when her mother died while she was in her early 20s. Unable to deal with the grief, she first cheated on then divorced her husband (I was unable to stop feeling bad for Paul throughout the book), took heroin, and went through some gut wrenching events while slowly trying to self destruct. But when she began to hike, her life began to change. She forced all her material concerns out of her life, helped in part by two overaged boy scouts who removed many items from her pack, and focused on the immediate activities that allowed her to survive in harsh conditions. And conditions were tough in 1995. My wife and I began hiking the trail together that same year and like Strayed, we made the decision to avoid certain sections. But Strayed perserved and by the end of the trail was a changed, more confident person. She went on to start writing, got married and had children.Read more ›
As a disclaimer, I would like to point out that I am not in the target audience for this book. I am 58 and male. I read the book because I am a backpacker. The book sells mostly to young, slim (probably athletic) women. Why do I make this assertion? I went to Cheryl Strayed's event and book-signing. 95% of the large audience (Ms. Strayed is a rock star) fit this target market. The other 5% probably came for the electronic, new-age musician.
If I were in the target market, if I had identified more strongly with Ms. Strayed (or her 24-year old self), I would probably have loved this book. If you can identify with Cheryl Strayed, then you may love this book.
If you cannot form this bond, you may dislike the book because of the follow reasons:
1. The language and metaphors are fairly pedestrian. I kept thinking, I have heard that analogy or phrasing in many books (often self-help books, no accident that Ms. Strayed was a self-help columnist). The author usually avoids obvious cliches, but if you reflect upon media discussions that focus on personal growth, you will recognize most of the language. For example, the author loves the adverb, "profoundly." She also uses some obvious tricks to make the writing seem compelling: sexual obscenities (not an objection for me, but more of an author tic) and exaggerating verbs -- "destroyed" for tired and "shattered" for distraught or depressed. Not terrible, but not Joan Didion or Dave Eggers.
2. Cheryl Strayed likes metaphor as the primary tool in story-telling (call it approach A). She made this comment in the event that I attended. Many authors, however, focus upon precise, sensory detail to show depth of character, point of view, voice and story development.Read more ›
But as I progressed through the book I felt a gnawing sense that this was not a work of pure fact, and prone to flights of fancy and embellishment. The dialog seemed contrived and wooden at times as the book wore on. Her apparent desire to saddle up with just about any guy she bumped into seemed curious at first, began to wear thin later, and was off-putting by the end. Some encounters read like more a cheap Harlequin romance novel than reality. By the time she encounters bow hunters on the Oregon Crest Trail, she lost me. They admire her sinewy legs under her tight jeggings (I'm embellishing for effect here). They're hiking for the day but they're carrying huge backpacks. They've each consumed a six pack of Pepsi but they're dehydrated and disoriented. They leave but one of them returns to leer at her and accuse her of lying about where she was going to camp. As I read the scene I felt like I was watching Burt Reynolds in Deliverance, "You got a nice mouf". Like someone that's told you a string of faintly troubling white lies, the stink of poor credibility finally overwhelmed me. I got the sense that she created plot devices and embellished stories as a means to punctuate her experiences north of the California border.
I've hiked much of the Oregon and Washington Pacific Crest Trail system. So I'm familiar with what it's like to be on the trail for 3-4 weeks at a time. And there are elements of Strayed's book that resonated.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Armed only with "the world's loudest whistle", the author sets out alone with a too-heavy backpack and ill-fitting boots to hike from the Mojave Desert to the Bridge of the... Read morePublished 10 hours ago by Amazon Customer
An inspiring story for anyone feeling a little lost or unsure of where they are going.Published 19 hours ago by Amazon Customer
I really enjoyed the writting of this book, loved reading about her time on the trail. Honestly though, I didn't like her as a person. Read morePublished 1 day ago by Missy
Felt like I was walking the PCT with the author. Wonderful description of her surroundings.Published 1 day ago by Andrew G. Charest
I had not seen the movie and was well impressed by the truthfulness and hardships endured. A book club selection, that will be discussed later this month.Published 2 days ago by R. Masek
A wonderful book! I would highly recommend for use in therapy or just as a soul searching kind of book. It keeps your attentionPublished 2 days ago by Driving Kate