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Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail Paperback – March 26, 2013
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From Author Cheryl Strayed
I wrote the last line of my first book, Torch, and then spent an hour crying while lying on a cool tile floor in a house on a hot Brazilian island. After I finished my second book, Wild, I walked alone for miles under a clear blue sky on an empty road in the Oregon Outback. I sat bundled in my coat on a cold patio at midnight staring up at the endless December stars after completing my third book, Tiny Beautiful Things. There are only a handful of other days in my life--my wedding, the births of my children--that I remember as vividly as those solitary days on which I finished my books. The settings and situations were different, but the feeling was the same: an overwhelming mix of joy and gratitude, humility and relief, pride and wonder. After much labor, I'd made this thing. A book. Though it wasn't technically that yet.
The real book came later--after more work, but this time it involved various others, including agents, publishers, editors, designers, and publicists, all of whose jobs are necessary but sometimes indecipherable to me. They're the ones who transformed the thousands of words I'd privately and carefully conjured into something that could be shared with other people. "I wrote this!" I exclaimed in amazement when I first held each actual, physical book in my hands. I wasn't amazed that it existed; I was amazed by what its existence meant: that it no longer belonged to me.
Two months before Wild was published I stood on a Mexican beach at sunset with my family assisting dozens of baby turtles on their stumbling journey across the sand, then watching as they disappeared into the sea. The junction between writer and author is a bit like that. In one role total vigilance is necessary; in the other, there's nothing to do but hope for the best. A book, like those newborn turtles, will ride whatever wave takes it.
It's deeply rewarding to me when I learn that something I wrote moved or inspired or entertained someone; and it's crushing to hear that my writing bored or annoyed or enraged another. But an author has to stand back from both the praise and the criticism once a book is out in the world. The story I chose to write in Wild for no other reason than I felt driven to belongs to those who read it, not me. And yet I'll never forget what it once was, long before I could even imagine how gloriously it would someday be swept away from me.
Echoing the ever-popular search for wilderness salvation by Chris McCandless (Back to the Wild, 2011) and every other modern-day disciple of Thoreau, Strayed tells the story of her emotional devastation after the death of her mother and the weeks she spent hiking the 1,100-mile Pacific Crest Trail. As her family, marriage, and sanity go to pieces, Strayed drifts into spontaneous encounters with other men, to the consternation of her confused husband, and eventually hits rock bottom while shooting up heroin with a new boyfriend. Convinced that nothing else can save her, she latches onto the unlikely idea of a long solo hike. Woefully unprepared (she fails to read about the trail, buy boots that fit, or pack practically), she relies on the kindness and assistance of those she meets along the way, much as McCandless did. Clinging to the books she lugs along—Faulkner, Flannery O’Connor, Adrienne Rich—Strayed labors along the demanding trail, documenting her bruises, blisters, and greater troubles. Hiker wannabes will likely be inspired. Experienced backpackers will roll their eyes. But this chronicle, perfect for book clubs, is certain to spark lively conversation. --Colleen Mondor --This text refers to the Preloaded Digital Audio Player edition.
Top customer reviews
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.
Why, then, was I unable to read more than half the book. Why did I sell my copy just a few months after my purchase?
First, memoirs that recount long-dated events, or describe people the writer knew long ago, are constructs more than memoir. While I may have erred, I thought the writer couldn't have recalled the minutiae of encounters she'd had so many years earlier. Second, the portrait Ms. Strayed offered of her early life did not evoke either a lovable or admirable character. I wanted a memoirist who would have the depth of vision to create a heroine with positive, as well as negative, attributes. didn't like the person she once was, and because of that, felt less motivated to explore her transformation. Third, the pacing fatigued in certain sections. Specifically, Strayed's endless ruminations about her oversized pack were repetitive and overwritten. Fourth, given the era in which she hiked the Pacific Crest Trail, I wanted more of a feminist perspective, too, but didn't find it.
I think the writer hoped to create a picaresque story in which a character travels from point-to-point, describing adventures and meetings along the way. By mid-read, though, the events and meetings were mostly so muted in the telling that I can't remember one.
Don't get me wrong. There are moments when Strayed's writing is engaging, and her sense-of-humor sharp, but in a shrinking market, I don't feel the book deserved the accolades it received -- nor the special web and broadcast attention from which it gained share over more worthy titles. Cheryl Strayed is a very promising writer, but I don't feel she was as sensitive to the reader's need for character, setting, pace or tension as she might have been.
I read this for my book club and that's about the only reason I finished it.