Tag Archives: Wild by Cheryl Strayed

Wild Book Review

Is it just me or has the healthy living blogosphere exploded with praise for Cheryl Strayed’s Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail?

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This memoir has been on my radar for a while, and while home for the holidays, I told my Colorado-based, seasoned-hiker cousin about it; we decided to start a virtual book club and chose this text as our first read.  On the train back to New York City, I couldn’t stop reading:  Strayed’s honest tone and carefully crafted narrative caught my attention.  Overall, I liked Wild, but wouldn’t readily recommend it; I wouldn’t classify it as a must-read.

Brief Summary

From Amazon.com:

A powerful, blazingly honest memoir: the story of an eleven-hundred-mile solo hike that broke down a young woman reeling from catastrophe—and built her back up again.

At twenty-two, Cheryl Strayed thought she had lost everything. In the wake of her mother’s death, her family scattered and her own marriage was soon destroyed.  Four years later, with nothing more to lose, she made the most impulsive decision of her life: to hike the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to Washington State—and to do it alone.  She had no experience as a long-distance hiker, and the trail was little more than ‘an idea, vague and outlandish and full of promise.’  But it was a promise of piecing back together a life that had come undone.

Strayed faces down rattlesnakes and black bears, intense heat and record snowfalls, and both the beauty and loneliness of the trail.  Told with great suspense and style, sparkling with warmth and humor, Wild vividly captures the terrors and pleasures of one young woman forging ahead against all odds on a journey that maddened, strengthened, and ultimately healed her.

Product Details

Publisher:  Knoph

Publication date:  3/20/2012

Pages:  336

My Review

Non-fiction, memoir, travel writing—however you classify Wild, it’s fundamentally sound from a writing perspective.  It’s tight, yet descriptive, making the reader feel as if they’re hiking with 26-year-old Strayed during the summer of 1995 on the Pacific Crest Trail (which goes from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to Washington State).  The book centers on Strayed’s hike, and the author first briefly recounts her childhood and young adult years—her father vanished when she was six, her mother recently died, and Strayed used heroin and slept around—before sharing that she separated from her husband and was working as a waitress when she set off in search of “radical aloneness.”

I’ve never been hiking, so I don’t think I fully understand Strayed’s gutsy (yet reckless?) decision to start her career on one of the toughest trails in North America.  However, she makes no attempt to hide her inexperience—she didn’t try on her hiking boots before hitting the trail, she didn’t practice packing her backpack named Monster, etc.—and I valued her honesty.  Personally, I compared her choice to someone who wanted to tackle an Ironman for their first triathlon, specifically a challenging course like Lake Placid—which is nuts.

Anyway, throughout the book, Strayed seamlessly transitions from life on the trail—eating dehydrated meals, sleeping in a tiny tent, and losing blackened toenails—to her past, telling the audience about her childhood, her relationship with her mother, her failed marriage, and her heroin habits.  This rhetorical technique usually finds its way into travel novels, yet it works in this memoir, too:  Instead of sharing her entire life story in the first 30 pages, she continuously moves from past to present, effectively connecting and building a relationship with the reader.

 

I enjoyed “meeting” Strayed’s fellow PCT hikers, but I wondered how accurately they—and the journey itself—were portrayed; she did wait 17 years before writing this memoir.  I also would’ve liked to hear more about the actual hike, but further discussion would’ve veered toward travel writing and downplayed Strayed’s life experiences.

 

Discussion Questions:

1.  Do you enjoy outdoor activities like hiking, backpacking, and camping?

2.  Strayed uses the activity of hiking as a way to tell her life story.  If you wrote a memoir, what activity would act as the “window” into your life?

3.  What’s your favorite biography or memoir?   

Can’t Put it Down

Hi, everyone!  I officially made it back to New York City in one piece!  The five-and-a-half hour train ride passed quickly thanks to a new book.

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I’ve read about 200 pages so far, and I can’t put Wild down!  When I was home for the holidays, my cousin MK and I decided to form a virtual/long-distance book club; she lives in Colorado and loves hiking, and since I’ve seen this memoir popping up frequently on the blogosphere, I suggested it for our first read.  There’s a strong possibility I may finish it tonight!

Workout – Swimming

Originally, I planned to take today off, but I figured since I would be sitting for most of the day, I should move a little.  Plus, I finally figured out my local pool’s hours, and I also wanted to wear my new swimsuit; during my 45 minutes of drill work, it felt great, and I hope it doesn’t stretch out.

Breakfast

Back home, I quickly made a spinach and egg-white breakfast sandwich—I still had organizing and packing to do!

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I also drank and second (and third) cup of coffee.  I’ve been experimenting in terms of having caffeine before working out.  The past two mornings, I’ve downed only one cup (as opposed to my usual two) and saved the second for afterward.  I don’t think I can totally give up my pre-workout coffee—especially next week when Full Throttle Endurance training starts at 5:45 a.m.!  You can’t workout if you’re still asleep, right?

Lunch

I didn’t do a good job of documenting lunch because I was too busy reading—whoops!  First, I ate a turkey and cheese sandwich with spinach and spicy brown mustard.

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And chased it with some leftover roasted broccoli and an apple.

1_3-lunch-roasted-broccoli-apple During the train ride, I also munched on some carrots and polished off an apple cinnamon Chobani.  And now, I have to go grocery shopping—there’s no food in my apartment!

Is there a book, movie, TV show, etc. can’t you put down?

Happy 2013!

Hi, friends!  Happy New Year!  Did you have fun celebrating last night?  We went to my aunt and uncle’s house for appetizers and soups.

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So much food!  We hung out for a few hours before coming home to pop champagne with our immediate family.

Workout – Running

Did you do a resolution run (or workout) today?  I slept in and headed outside around 9 a.m. for snowy 45 minutes.  Nothing too exciting to report—expect some unplanned speedwork when a dog started chasing me!  Luckily, it was a small doggie that promptly returned to its owner when called.  Whew!

Breakfast

Since we were out of spinach this morning (the horror!), I added chopped red pepper to my egg-white sandwich.

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Plus some Sriracha,.  My mom and I had some errands to run, so I also ate a sliced pear with PB.

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Random, but delicious.

Our first two stops this afternoon included a visit to my grandparents’ house to pick up a sewing machine and a trip to Barnes and Noble so I could get a book for the train ride back to New York City.  Before I found a copy of Wild by Cheryl Strayed, I stumbled upon this display.

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And if being ambushed by Downton Abbey spinoffs weren’t enough, the section next to it included a ton of triathlon books.  Well played, B&N.  I almost bought Race Weight:  How to Get Lean for Peak Performance by Matt Fitzgerald, but I didn’t want to carry another book home.  Don’t worry—I added it to my Amazon.com shopping cart.

Next up, we went to Wegmans, aka the happiest place on earth.

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Although I’ve become a fan of Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods, Wegmans will always be my favorite.

Lunch

A trip to Wegmans meant my standard sushi and soup for lunch.

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Citrus tofu roll and rotisserie chicken noodle soup for the win!

While at Wegmans, we also picked up a new toy for Zelda.  Besides some chew sticks and cookies from the Union Square Holiday Market, she didn’t get any real Christmas presents; Zelda tends to destroy new toys in minutes, so it doesn’t make a lot of sense to keep buying her stuff she rips apart.  However, this squirrel’s package said it would be “long lasting,” so we figured what the heck.

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Zelda’s been playing with the squirrel for 30 minutes now, and it’s still intact!

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Typical!

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What did you do for NYE?  How did you spend your first day of 2013?