Wild is a memoir of Cheryl’s summer-long hike across the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). She takes this trip after a troubled childhood, her mother’s death, and her eventual divorce due to cheating on her extremely supportive husband. She also experiments with sex and heroin as she tries to pull herself back together. Her goal is to process the events in her life and find herself along the trail. For a more complete summary, you can go here. You can also learn more about Cheryl Strayed here.
I wanted to love this book, but I only kinda liked it. And, wow, this book was long. I realize it was about a couple thousand miles on a trail, but holy cow. It started to get really repetitive and dry. I would have been okay with the book being about half of the length. She could have cut out some of the stops to make the pace go a little bit faster. I honestly almost gave up on this book halfway through. She did cut out a lot of details near the end, as the last half of her trip was condensed into the last third or less of her book. There were also so many characters in and out of her story, that I could barely keep track of who was who. A little refresher when she ran into them again would have been nice.
I did enjoy getting details of her background story and purpose for the trip. I also enjoyed her descriptions of the hike, especially the first few weeks of her trip. I have never—and probably will never—go on a hike more than a few days long, so it was nice to live vicariously through her. She was so ill-prepared for her journey, that you would think that anyone with enough gusto could hike the Pacific Crest Trail. But really, she probably was extremely close to being killed or raped several times on her trip. I wouldn’t recommend this story as an inspiration to follow in her footsteps.
I appreciate and respected Strayed for being so brutally honest with her mistakes and experiences. However, I could have done without some of the horrifically disturbing parts (i.e. killing her horse, eating her mom’s ashes, and pulling off her toenails). I think those were all important experiences to her, so I understand why she included them. I just don’t have the stomach for that sort of thing.
Overall, I am glad I read this book to see what all of the hype was about. I am excited to see how Reese Witherspoon portrays Cheryl in the movie version. This book would be good for people who are struggling to find their identity. I think women would probably enjoy it more, but some men might appreciate it too. If you are interested in buying the book, you can buy it here—and there is a reader’s guide there too. After you have read this book let me know what you think!
P.S. I judged it in a similar way that I did for another travel memoir, "The Paris Letters".
*** 3/5 Stars