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Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail Paperback – March 26, 2013
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“Spectacular. . . . A literary and human triumph.” —The New York Times Book Review
"I was on the edge of my seat. . . . It is just a wild ride of a read . . . stimulating, thought-provoking, soul-enhancing." —Oprah Winfrey, on Wild, first selection of her Book Club 2.0
“Strayed’s language is so vivid, sharp and compelling that you feel the heat of the desert, the frigid ice of the High Sierra, and the breathtaking power of one remarkable woman finding her way—and herself—one brave step at a time.” —People (4 stars)
"An addictive, gorgeous book that not only entertains, but leaves us the better for having read it. . . . Strayed is a formidable talent." —The Boston Globe
"One of the most original, heartbreaking, and beautiful American memoirs in years. . . . Awe-inspiring." —NPR Books
“Cinematic. . . . A rich, riveting story. . . . Our verdict: A.” —Entertainment Weekly
“Pretty much obliterated me. I was reduced, during the book’s final third, to puddle-eyed cretinism. . . . As loose and sexy and dark as an early Lucinda Williams song. It’s got a punk spirit and makes an earthy and American sound. . . . The cumulative welling up I experienced during Wild was partly a response to that too infrequent sight: that of a writer finding her voice, and sustaining it, right in front of your eyes.” —Dwight Garner, The New York Times
“Brave seems like the right word to sum up this woman and her book. . . . Strayed’s journey is exceptional.” —San Francisco Chronicle
“One of the best books I’ve read in the last five or ten years. . . . Wild is angry, brave, sad, self-knowing, redemptive, raw, compelling, and brilliantly written, and I think it’s destined to be loved by a lot of people, men and women, for a very long time.” —Nick Hornby
“Devastating and glorious. . . . By laying bare a great unspoken truth of adulthood—that many things in life don’t turn out the way you want them to, and that you can and must live through them anyway—Wild feels real in many ways that many books about ‘finding oneself’ . . . do not.” —Slate
“Incisive and telling. . . . [Strayed] has the ineffable gift every writer longs for of saying exactly what she means in lines that are both succinct and poetic. . . . an inborn talent for articulating angst and the gratefulness that comes when we overcome it.” —The Washington Post
“Vivid, touching and ultimately inspiring account of a life unraveling and of the journey that put it back together.” —The Wall Street Journal
“Strayed . . . catalogs her epic hike . . . with a raw emotional power that makes the book difficult to put down. . . . In walking, and finally, years later, in writing, Strayed finds her way again. And her path is as dazzlingly beautiful as it is tragic.” —Los Angeles Times
“A fearless story, told in honest prose that is wildly lyrical as often as it is dirtily physical.” —Minneapolis Star Tribune
“This isn’t Cinderella in hiking boots, it’s a woman coming out of heartbreak, darkness and bad decisions with a clear view of where she has been. . . . There are adventures and characters aplenty, from heartwarming to dangerous, but Strayed resists the temptation to overplay or sweeten such moments. Her pacing is impeccable as she captures her impressive journey.” —The Seattle Times
“Strayed’s journey was at least as transcendent as it was turbulent. She faced down hunger, thirst, injury, fatigue, boredom, loss, bad weather, and wild animals. Yet she also reached new levels of joy, accomplishment, courage, peace, and found extraordinary companionship.” —The Christian Science Monitor
“Strayed writes a crisp scene; her sentences hum with energy. She can describe a trail-parched yearning for Snapple like no writer I know. . . . It becomes impossible not to root for her.” —The Plain Dealer
“Brilliant. . . . Cheryl Strayed emerges from her grief-stricken journey as a practitioner of a rare and vital vocation. She has become an intrepid cartographer of the human heart.” —Houston Chronicle
“A deeply honest memoir about mother and daughter, solitude and courage, and regaining footing one step at a time.” —Vogue
“This is a big, brave, break-your-heart-and-put-it-back-together-again kind of book. Cheryl Strayed is a courageous, gritty, and deceptively elegant writer. She walked the PCT to find forgiveness, came back with generosity—and now she shares her reward with us. I snorted with laughter, I wept uncontrollably; I don’t even want to know the person who isn’t going to love Wild. This is a beautifully made, utterly realized book.” —Pam Houston, author of Contents May Have Shifted and Cowboys are My Weakness
About the Author
CHERYL STRAYED is the author of the #1 New York Times best seller Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, which was the first selection for Oprah's Book Club 2.0 and became an Oscar-nominated film starring Reese Witherspoon;Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar, a national best seller now the basis of the WBUR podcast Dear Sugar Radio, co-hosted with Steve Almond; and Torch, her debut novel. Her books have been translated into forty languages, and her essays and other writings have appeared in numerous publications.
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
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For me, “Wild” reads less like a journey into self and more like a straight-forward walk into the woods. Strayed is a lively writer who brings the trail to life: the hardships of living off the grid and by your wits, the relentless tedium of walking despite the beautiful scenery, the daily stamina required to make her audacious 3-month plan work, as well as the brief but emotionally intense trail relationships hikers form during their journey.
Physically, the trail changes her. Her heightened awareness and resourcefulness increases her confidence. At trail’s end, she says that she’s healed her grief, but I wasn’t feeling the spiritual or emotional transformation she says she experienced. “Wild” is an interesting book that captures both the loneliness and exhilaration of life on the trail. As a journey into the soul, though, it comes up a step too short.
Fortunately, Cheryl met some good Samaritans along the way who helped to educate her in the art and science of backpacking and assisted her in editing the contents of her backpack to a more reasonable and sustainable level. She wrote frankly about her mistakes, miscalculations, and mishaps as she slowly made her way northward through the Mojave Desert to the Sierra Nevada mountain range (most of which she bypassed by hitchhiking because of record snowfall that year) and all the way up to the Bridge of the Gods at the Oregon/Washington border.
As for the book itself, this is one of the few times I would recommend seeing the movie before reading the book, simply because the book is long and somewhat dense and if the movie doesn't appeal to you, the book probably won't, either. I enjoyed both the descriptions of the beauty and difficulty of hiking such a long way as well as the flashbacks of Cheryl's life before and how she came to make the decision - impulsively, as always - to take on this journey. She did educate herself about the gear she would need, apparently overly so, since she ended up with so much in her backpack she had to sit down, strap on the backpack, then get up on all fours and gradually move herself into a semi-upright position. However, although she bought a book about hiking the trail as well as one on navigating with a compass, she apparently just skimmed the first book and although she intended to read the second book on the plane from Minnesota to California, she did not do so. In fact, she didn't read the navigation book until she was actually lost, at which time she discovered she really didn't understand either the language or the principles the book contained.
I will admit, the most difficult thing about reading this book besides its length and the density of the prose was dealing with Cheryl's character. I can only assume she was being honest about herself, since I don't believe anyone would portray themselves in such a negative light if it weren't the truth. Besides being heedless and impulsive, Cheryl betrayed, over and over again, a husband who seems to have had almost unlimited patience and love for her, even after their divorce. The loss of a loved one, especially one as close as Cheryl and her mother were, can cause people to react in strange and sometimes self-destructive ways. The best thing Cheryl did was to take herself out of the environment she was in and away from the temptations she found irresistible. But you know the old saying: Wherever you go, there you are. Cheryl was Cheryl, whether in Minnesota or on the PCT. The one thing she did do while on the trail was resist, almost to the very end, her rampant libido.
I am glad I read this book. In a way, it reminds me of books I read years ago about people who had moved far away from civilization to live off the land. That, too, is an attractive and romantic prospect until you factor in the backbreaking labor involved. Most of the characters in those books were infinitely easier to like but far less memorable. Cheryl is certainly someone I will never forget
In the middle third, we learn more about the forces that formed her, the ‘how’ and ‘what’ of the wounds, the abandonment, as she struggles along the trail. At a personal level she engages people easily and doesn’t seem to have a sense of danger, just a sense that she is being called to grow, to resolve, and so we meet and enjoy many other hikers along the PCT. Too, she is fine being alone in the wilderness, despite her people skills, and this, along with her descriptions of the land and struggles, make for good reading.
In the last part, we are firm witnesses to her grit and determination, even as she occasionally backslides behaviorally. That means she has gained insight into her dynamics, but impulse still wins out. She doesn’t, however, let that defeat her.
The other thing about this book is, it’s well written and therefore invites the reader to keep turning the page. Oprah’s notes are also of interest as it gives insight into what drew her to this particular story. In summary, Strayed’s adventure – both inner and outer is worth witnessing. While I would never choose to live my life as she has, the fortitude to endure a self-sought and the much needed initiation into adulthood, while walking over a thousand miles, and looking at her psychological processes, earned my respect. Five stars.