When I first saw it, while mildly intrigued, my first snarky thought was “Yay. Another woman goes on some completely unrealistic vision quest and writes a book and gets Oprah to dote on her, and really I’m just jealous I can’t take a 15-minute walk without one of my kids needing my attention and isn’t she just special?!?!?!”
But, yeah. It kind of kicked ass.
It didn’t take but a few pages to realize I shouldn’t be jealous of, or envy Cheryl Strayed. Instead, I found a certain kind of empathy for her. At the time she took her monumental hike, she was in her mid-20s, a few years out from the all-too-soon death of her mom, and weeks out of a marriage she acknowledges she destroyed. Emotionally adrift at the loss of her mom and without any kind of solid relationship with her bio-Dad and her sibs, Strayed turned to drugs and random sex with strangers for comfort. Though not necessarily characterized this way, the hike appears to be Strayed’s last-ditch effort to straighten out her life. To come to terms with her choices. To grieve the loss of her mom. To prove herself.
This was no easy challenge—in the world of expert hiking, relatively few have actually accomplished the Pacific Crest Trail. It’s not for beginners. Yet, Strayed was one. Undaunted, losing toenails, in constant pain, and really, unprepared, she soldiers on alone, connects with others and finds herself.
People are going to come at this from all different perspectives, and everyone will get something out of it. For me, I found myself more drawn to the physical challenge of the hike and her tenacity. For others, it may be more about her emotional journey. As someone who has experienced the loss of immediate family, and unexpectedly at that, I could relate to that feeling of being lost, and how she moved through her grief.
And the book I promised I would hate left me teary-eyed at the end, amazed at Strayed’s accomplishment, and grateful I read it.
Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail