Top critical review
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Generally interesting, but inspiring? Hardly.
on December 11, 2012
I read this book because it was recommended to me by a friend who shares similar taste in literature but I'm afraid I'm somewhat disappointed.
Cheryl Strayed takes you on her impulsive journey along the Pacific Crest Trail as an ignorant amateur in need of escape from "everything". The long and often silent stretches of hiking offered the author much needed time to reflect on her painful past, fraught with questionable and self-destructive life decisions, and to her credit, she manages to keep the reader engaged throughout these extended periods during her hike where nothing really happens by discussing the memories of her past very candidly. However, I definitely found the first half of the book more interesting than the second as I started to get bored by her trip and the problems she experienced because she didn't do the homework she should have done prior to taking on such an ambitious task.
Although I think Strayed is a good writer, I just wasn't moved by her story. She had some interesting moments in Wild but on the whole, I kept thinking "what a stupid girl." I found it difficult to relate to her personally at times despite the fact that I could relate to her loss and much of her anger. Although Strayed was unforgiving of herself and very honest about her short-comings and bad decisions, she just came across as a narcissistic and self-absorbed child who wanted a convenient excuse to be irresponsible and sleep around with random men which I often found myself shrugging at and saying "so what?"
I appreciated how honest (often disparagingly so) Strayed was about herself but I couldn't help but question the truth of all aspects of her story. If the questionable parts made Wild more interesting, I wouldn't complain but they made me doubt her whole downward spiral, supposedly caused by her mother's death. I suspect that Strayed's life was already going awry and her mother's death was not what set her off on her dark path of self-destruction but it definitely provides a decent premise for a book on one's journey of self-discovery. Harsh, and I could be wrong of course, but that's my gut feeling nonetheless. The book was all so self-indulgent that by the ending, which was a very abrupt "let me tie it all up here to sound like I was healed by the time I was done", I was kind of relieved it was over.
Strayed does a good job of relaying her chopped-up memoirs but I definitely did not feel she conveyed her "healing process" on her hike very well because there was no genuine introspection on her part and I struggled to see where she got her closure because I, the reader, didn't get any. Perhaps that's because there was a bit of a disconnect between the accounts of Strayed's past and those of her experiences on the trail. They didn't mesh well as they seemed like two different books thrown together rather haphazardly with Strayed using her mother's death as the link - a fragile one at that.
Perhaps that was the angle she was working in her book and I just didn't get it but it felt like she missed the mark to me.
On the whole, worth a read if you've got time to kill, but that's about it in my humble opinion.