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Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail Hardcover – Deckle Edge, March 20, 2012
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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.
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.
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
I attempted to listen to this on audiobook, but I couldn't stand the annoying sound of Bernadette Dunne's voice, which is the equivalent of nails scratching across a chalk board.Published 11 hours ago by Janet Z.
Well written, amazing that she lived through it all. Seems like a crazy thing to do, but inspires one to not give up on a goal. Read morePublished 14 hours ago by Elizabeth
I loved everything about this book! The inspirational story about hiking alone, the intimate details about family, her troubled time with drugs and sex, and how hiking helped... Read morePublished 3 days ago by Christine Gross
Well written and made me want to walk and explore the same trail. Cant wait to see the movie now.Published 4 days ago by Martha
I absolutely LOVED this book! Can't tell you how much I related to in this book during the various stages of my life! Read morePublished 4 days ago by JPoe
It was an okay book. It was very interesting and a smooth read but I kept thinking that something more was going to happen.Published 5 days ago by happy customer
Cliff Notes Version...
"My life was a mess. I didn't know what else to do with my life so I decided to take a long walk in the wilderness. Read more
This book also could have been called Brave. Loved the spirit!Published 7 days ago by Amazon Customer