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on June 3, 2012
If I had known that every few pages I would have to see passages underlined by Oprah I would not have bought this edition. Not only does it bump me out of the narrative, but it deprives me of experiencing the book on my own; instead forcing me to think Oprah's underlines are the important parts. It makes what could otherwise be a beautiful story feel like a cheap used textbook. I should at least be able to hide the obnoxious underlining and get to experience the story on my own.

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.
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on February 28, 2017
Outstanding book! I saw the movie before I read the book, and you know how that goes, one or the other usually disappoints. Not this time. Within reason, the movie was a faithful companion to the book. I thoroughly enjoyed both. The book was able to delve a little more deeply into Cheryl's story and more fully examine the mess she had gotten into after the death of her mother. Two things are absolutely clear by the end of the book- Bobbi loved her kids absolutely, did her very best for them, and Cheryl loved her mom deeply as well.
The hiking scenes were very well done, and as someone who has done my share of hiking (though no large scale hikes like the PCT or Appalachian Trail) I could readily identify with so much of it. That stage where you're just plodding along, putting one foot in front of the other, is well-known to anyone who hikes. When you're out in the middle of nowhere and you'd like to just quit, you realize that you can't. No helicopter is going to swoop in and pluck you off the trail just because you're tired of doing it.
Her relief at the end of the day, getting rid of her heavy pack and getting off her feet, is also familiar. At the end of the day, no better feeling than getting this bitch off my back"! Her appreciation of little things like wildflowers and the animals she sees are what hiking is all about.
In short, you feel as if you're with Cheryl every step of the way. Yet she blends the hiking and the battle with her demons in such a way that neither part of the story overwhelms the other.
Hiker or not, this is a must-read. It's very well-crafted and engaging. You'll find yourself reading far into the night!
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on September 9, 2014
Not uplifting or inspiring. The main character/author is slightly annoying and very whiny. The story lacks details that would make it more believable (Yes, I call BS). I kept reading thinking that there would be an epiphany, life lesson, inspiration, epic event, etc. Nothing. Don't waste your time reading this book. It is depressing and sad.
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on December 23, 2014
I thought I would enjoy this book, but I have zero respect for a person who runs from their self created problems and makes him or herself a professional victim. This woman is selfish and her book glorifies her destructive life choices as being the bridge to bring her to the PCT. There are more powerful memoirs out there about loss and recovery. And those people didn't elect to change their name or destroy their life and those they supposedly love in order to recover.....
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on October 14, 2015
This is one of the worst books I've ever read. Monotonous self pity. When she had her brother kill the horse, I put the book down and refused to read more. I find it hard to believe she couldn't find money to pay for a vet to humanely put the horse down, rather than have her brother shoot it several times in the head and watch it suffer. She found money for everything else. Just plain gross. I don't root for these kinds of characters--real or imagined.
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on June 23, 2015
Such a story! Strayed started off so very well, telling us about trying to hike the entire length of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) -- alone and woefully without preparation. She'd researched and bought all the equipment she’d need, but hadn’t tried any of it out. So she’d never worn her backpack (too heavy to lift when packed). Hadn’t read the directions that came with her portable stove (ruined it by using the wrong gas). Hadn’t tried out her brand new hiking boots (a size too small, making every step agony as toenails got black and dropped off and skin stuck to her socks). Indeed, she'd never been backpacking before. But she had been emotional turmoil for four years, since her mother died of cancer. Roiling, Strayed made terrible and inexplicable choices over the four years, like cheating on her loving husband and trying heroin for a while, just to see what it was like. Inconsolable over her mother’s death, she got it into her head that this quest of hiking the PCT alone would allow her to heal and save her from self-destruction.

We feel her pain and her lack of preparation as she starts her journey. The night before she starts her hike, she lays out all the things she’d bought to carry with her. It takes some doing, but she manages to stuff everything into her backpack – then can’t even lift it, never mind sling it on her back and walk. And so begins her journey of hitting obstacles of her own making but pushing through pain and danger to accomplish her goal (mostly).

Throughout her story, Strayed intersperses slices of her life, confessing a litany of her good and bad experiences and choices, some of them despicable. She doesn’t shy away from revealing even cruel or hateful things she’d done in her life. But the one theme she comes back to over and over again is her relationship with her mother and how her mother’s death sent her life into freefall. She’s in agony. She presents an intriguing, gripping self-examination through this ridiculous self-imposed trial. How will it end? What will she learn from her herculean quest?

And then she’s diverted by unexpectedly heavy snowfall and has to bypass 450 miles of the trail. She’s delayed for five days and realizes she’s always wanted to write so why not start now, while she has nothing else to do anyway?

To me, her storytelling leaves the trail here, too, and does not return. She begins telling us about every encounter she has with other people, in detail, using sophomoric dialog. She looses the introspection and keen awareness of her experience that was so riveting in the beginning.

In the end, she begs off the question of what she learned. She claims she doesn’t need to figure out how to express her new understanding. It’s enough for her to feel that it had been right… So I wonder: why did she spend 300+ pages exposing her physical and emotional turmoil in minute detail while on this quest of self-discovery, only to decide she doesn’t need to know what she learned – and, by extension, doesn’t need to tell us?
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on February 16, 2015
Oh, good grief. Where to start? About 1/4 of the way into the book, I wished I'd listened to the negative reviews here, but my book club had chosen this, so I choked the rest of it down.

I started with such high hopes. So many people seem to have read a different book than I did. The author *says* she hiked the trail - and I don't doubt that she did, at least some of it - but halfway through the book, it has become obvioius that her perception of events isn't always rich in self-awareness and accuracy.

The book starts with her mother's death, which is a great loss that would cause anyone to make unexpected life choices for a time. To be sure, not everyone is moved to start heroin, engage in a string of affairs and one-night stands, and accuse their family of scattering to the winds (although her family are certainly available later on in the story for extensive criticism, occasional visits, or horse killings, so not sure about that). That, though, is probably because we, like the rest of her sibilings and stepfather, are not as emotionally sensitive and special as Cheryl. (The fact that her brother is also on drugs and struggling is barely a 1-sentence sidenote later on in the story.) As we progress through this difficult time with Cheryl, it becomes apparent that perhaps she's a bit ... unpredictable? Her husband, who she's just so horribly tormented with her own affairs during her own torment, is still somehow her dearest, her love. They hold hands under the table of their divorce lawyer, and he looks into her eyes and she ... just can't. Salvage the marriage, that is, because she's still calling him from the trail (she needs money), as well as her heroin buddy/affair partner who she is also just not going to engage with any more. She's a horrible person for blowing up her marriage, but also not, but she is, and (quick sidenote that she's just going to throw in here real fast) maybe her husband cheated too, but mostly she's horrible but not and everyone wants her. (If you absolutely must read this, some advice: buy this in paper copy, not on kindle. You're going to want to throw it across the room *a lot*, and that's rough on electronics.)

I was on board through the drugs and the affairs (hey, bad choices happen, people change, etc.), although it became apparent that her mother's death was perhaps less of a catalyst than the physical abuse by her biological father in her early childhood. No matter, though - as long as we can be victims and we have something to blame, we are good. Who needs to be an adult, understand their emotional damage, and find a way to manage it? Boring people, that's who! Boring people like the boring people who stop and help her not die from her irresponsibility along the trail! The same boring people that keep suggesting she get therapy! That are there to support her beautiful butterfly-like flight into adventure (although you can almost feel their relational weariness coming off of the page when they interact with her). We are the dreamers, we are - not the bores. We dreamers fill our packs with poetry and prose, not beef jerky and insect repellent! We are the special ones.

Also, horses need you to feed them? Pshaw. They can be important enough to you (and your beloved mother) to tattoo onto your body, but ensuring that they're fed is a bit much to ask. Better to wait until they starve - you have important gallivanting to do, after all - and then, to save money on a vet putting them down, just shoot them in the head. Does it go horribly wrong? Oh, you poor darling. You suffer so! At least you saved enough for that memorial tattoo....

Or was the tattoo donated for free? Because literally everyone everywhere will come out of the woods to help this poor, struggling, little angel doll. Men on the trail help her, and she evaluates their "do-ability" because ... no showers and lost toenails aside (for her and them) ... everyone is a possibility. Which she alludes to as a problem, but you later realize she really - wink, wink - is mostly showing you how crazy-desirable and adventurous she is. Or that's what she thinks she's doing. When they tell her it's dangerous on the trail alone? No, she is a ballsy gal who will conquer the elements (as she ignores their advice and runs out of water). Except she's her own worst enemy, by doing zero research and overloading her backpack so much that she tears herself up carrying it. And when some bad elements do show up and present a threat to her well-being? Well ... I don't ... that's real danger. She is utterly shocked that real danger and real suffering occurs - she's used to providing her own! She seems completely unsure how to process it even now. She still seems to see everyone's help as a subtle come-on, rather than (1) hairy shower-less camaraderie or (2) the most likely option: seasoned hikers concerned that they're looking at a dead woman. She packs many condoms and pull off her toenails as she sits with them around the campfire.

Mostly, it's creating suffering for herself (and for us) that appears to be her strong point. I read voraciously and find a lot of books with something to offer, even if I don't like the book. Or the author/main character has something interesting about them, even if they aren't aligned with my personal stances. I like dry, informative books and pointless, noneducational, juicy books. E-books and antiques in old English. I'm open, basically. But I made it about 4 chapters in before I hated both the book and the author with a fiery vengeance. You end the book cringing with pity for everyone who even approaches the author. Your spouse pops into the room to ask why you keep yelling, "See a therapist!"

Verdict: if you enjoy reading the point of view of a person with severe Borderline Personality Disorder, this book is going to rock your world. Otherwise? There are a million other options out there that are about hiking from a saner and more entertaining POV. Hiking the trail is less painful and will feel shorter than reading this book.
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on January 27, 2015
What a fool I was to believe the reviews! I read the ENTIRE book waiting for it to become "...captivating!" And it's not that I don't like memoirs, either--that's basically ALL I read. This was SUCH a disappointment! SO many pages and for not a single moment could she convince me to like her? This is the type of travelogue my kids used to write when we'd take them on trips--"We went to the park. We played Frisbee. We ate hot dogs. We came home." When my kids were older, they learned to have a POINT for their writing! But wait! Every once in a while she adds details like her abortion or her unprotected sex or her serial adultery or her heroin use, just so we'll learn to her like her more. And finally, there is my favorite part of the book: Right in the middle of everything, she stops to tell us a gruesome, terrible, disturbing tale of murdering her family horse. Don't worry, every little detail is there--more than enough to disturb your sleep. Then she goes back into her boring story again after disturbing us with this pointless tale of animal abuse. Add to this the fact that she had no idea how to go on a long hike. So this is what memoir is about? If you're looking for a better title, look for ANY FREAKING BOOK AT ALL that simply has the word "Memoir" somewhere near the title.
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on August 30, 2015
Reading this I get the sense that the writer, Cheryl "Strayed", was trying to prove to herself that she could throw together a book. She even briefly mentions in the book that she had always dreamed of writing a novel because of being such an avid reader. Props to her. But just because someone wrote a book doesn't mean they necessarily can write one. Throughout the whole book you are left with a sense of unfulfillment, constantly waiting for some kind of resolution, thread, or something. This relief never comes. Instead you get a character with a personality that was unrelatable, and at times, frankly, highly irritating. Cheryl has spurts of great writing, throwing back to her miserable childhood or scenes of her dying mother and her pathetic drug episode with Joe - it will make you shed a tear or two. But to me, the book was pointless. There are people that have done much crazier stuff than hitchhike half a trail and barely make it to each supply station before blowing all their money on Snapple and burgers. I mean for goodness sake, just pretend like you're trying to actually walk this trail and get something meaningful out of it. 75% of her "hardships" came from buying boots that didn't fit her. So you end up realizing how stubborn she is, the same mindset that led her to cheating on her husband with multiple nobodies. I found myself skimming through countless paragraphs of describing how tired she was, or how her backpack was rubbing her, or laying there naked with her blistered sweating body, which is not something I want to fill my mind with to be honest. At least make up something a little more exciting to read and give us some kind of life altering lesson at the end. If I was a college, or even high school, essay grader, I would say it was rambling and redundant. On that note, Cheryl has potential as a writer, but maybe she can write about someone else next time.
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on June 9, 2015
Plus: The writing is good.
Minuses:
1) I can't stand it when people don't prepare for a potentially dangerous activity, which could then put others in danger as they try to rescue the unprepared. Therefore, I don't think Cheryl should be looked upon as a hero;
2) Cheryl really doesn't seem to learn: even just prior to her PCT trek, she uses drugs; then all throughout the trek she makes the same mistakes over and over, especially regarding her money; she is anxious and willing (even if opportunity doesn't come through) to sleep with strangers she sees on the trail; she accepts invitations from men, even when she suspects she could be in trouble is she does; she is open to using drugs on the trail. All these things I thought she was trying to "correct" in her life - again, not hero material;
3) It isn't until the last few pages and miles that Cheryl finally releases her mom and her bad habits. This seems very put on, like it has to happen to make the ending right for a movie - not believable that she actually had an epiphany.

Not worthy of the accolades that this book and this person have received. It took me 4 months to read because I couldn't stand the hypocricy, but I felt compelled to finish it just to be able to write this review. I really almost finally stopped at 95% done - had to force myself to read the rest.
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