Wild : From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail

by Cheryl Strayed

Hardcover, 2012

Status

Available

Publication

New York : Alfred A. Knopf, 2012.

Description

A powerful, blazingly honest, inspiring memoir: the story of a 1,100 mile solo hike that broke down a young woman reeling from catastrophe--and built her back up again.

Media reviews

It’s not very manly, the topic of weeping while reading. Yet for a book critic tears are an occupational hazard. Luckily, perhaps, books don’t make me cry very often — I’m a thrice-a-year man, at best. Turning pages, I’m practically Steve McQueen. Cheryl Strayed’s new memoir, “Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail,” however, pretty much obliterated me. I was reduced, during her book’s final third, to puddle-eyed cretinism. I like to read in coffee shops, and I began to receive concerned glances from matronly women, the kind of looks that said, “Oh, honey.” It was a humiliation. To mention all this does Ms. Strayed a bit of a disservice, because there’s nothing cloying about “Wild.” It’s uplifting, but not in the way of many memoirs, where the uplift makes you feel that you’re committing mental suicide. This book is as loose and sexy and dark as an early Lucinda Williams song. It’s got a punk spirit and makes an earthy and American sound.
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A candid, inspiring narrative of the author’s brutal physical and psychological journey through a wilderness of despair to a renewed sense of self.

User reviews

LibraryThing member theWallflower
Oh boy. Grab a cup of tea for this review. I got a lot to say.

My first thought was that it was going to be like "Eat, Pray, Love". Instead of shirking her responsibilities to work and family and spending a bunch of money she doesn't have so she can eat grubs with toothless monks and have sex with strange European men, Cheryl Strayed takes a short cut and just hikes the Pacific Crest trail.

This kind of story is always bull. I couldn't get past the introduction without immediately disliking her.

In the first section, she presents herself as divorced, a drug user, an adulterer, homecoming queen, and cheerleader. And to boot, she colors Minnesotans as north woods cabin-dwellers with no electricity or running water. And I'm supposed to root for her?

In the first chapter, she's already hating her husband of four years (who she married at twenty) for no reason, despite the fact that he has been calling her every day (out of concern) while she's at the hospital with her dying mother. But nope, whatever connection she thinks they had "broke". No reason why, it just happened. No reason to make an effort to try and put things back together either. Solid. You sound like a valuable person to me.

Especially after you leave your husband and start doing heroin. Then he drives eight hours across the country to intervention you away from her dealer/boyfriend. With nothing to gain from it -- out of the goodness of his heart he does this. After a few months of dealing with the divorce and the death of her mom (and not having a job or source of income), she decides on a whim that she'll hike the Pacific Crest Trail. Based solely on a book she picked up.

Listen to me. You are not courageous. You are a screw-up that doesn't know you're a screw-up, and then wonders why there's consequences for your actions. You've been acting selfish all your life, then go out and do something selfish under the guise of "finding yourself", then write a book all about it because you can't fuel your ego enough.

You hiking up the Pacific seaboard without learning how to hike properly is not a struggle. It's you being stupid. Your sole source of information was a book published in 1989 (hike took place in 2006) and the pimple-face at REI. You don't know how to wear boots or pack a bag. I read "A Walk in the Woods" by Bill Bryson. That means I'm more qualified than she was.

But Strayed makes sure to mention each and every other book she reads on the trail (before she burns them for campfire fuel). Not that any of them help her -- it's all pretentious literary bull like "As I Lay Dying", "Dubliners" and "The Novel". And just in case we forget that she's "well-read", there's a handy list at the back for reference.

She's surprised that there's no such thing as a "bad hair day" on the trail. She's no longer worried about the intricacies of being thin or fat. Women have been discovering that for decades. Do you think Mia Hamm or the female American Gladiators worry about their hair? (Well, the gladiators might. They're on TV, after all.) This women is so deep in her self, the idea that anyone around her might have already discovered these gems or feels the same way never occurs to her. She thinks she's finding all these things herself for the first time. And then she doesn't even learn anything. She still has sex with anonymous partners. Just to experience "what a man feels like again".

And if that's not enough, if you get the Oprah Book Club edition, you can enjoy all of Queen O's laudations and notes about how she's so courageous, how she's such a good writer, all the passages she loves about "past-bloom flowers in the wind" and being in love with words. Make me puke.

The biggest example of her idiocy occurs midway through the book. A man in a car stops up and asks to her interview her for Hobo Times. "But I'm not a hobo," she says, "I'm a backpacker."
"Do you have a permanent home?" he asks.
"Nope."
"Are you walking on the road?"
"Yep."
"How many times have you slept with a roof over your head in the past month?"
"Three."
"Is your backpack all you have in the world?"
"Yes."
"Are you getting around by hitchhiking?"
"Yes."
"Then please take this standard hobo care package."
Which she does. Nice. Way to stay true to your convictions. If it walks like a duck, talks like a duck...

This book perpetuates the idea that people who break the rules get the breaks, while the people who follow the rules, go to work every day and do their job, get shafted. Please, women. Please don't look up to self-absorbed people like this for your inspiration.
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LibraryThing member brenzi
It’s 1995 and Cheryl Strayed’s life could not be more desperate and out of control. The death of her mother a few years before has left her reeling, consumed by grief and making one bad decision after another. Strung out on heroin, cheating on her husband with just about anyone who came along, and bouncing around from Minnesota to Oregon to New York to California, never staying long in one place, she finally makes the decision that something must change. She starts by divorcing her husband. Although she loves him mightily, she realizes that she must let him go if she is ever to get her life back on track. As soon as the divorce is final, she decides that she will hike the Pacific Crest Trail, a wilderness trail that starts in southern California and ends at the Canadian border. She has little or no hiking experience having, on a whim, picked up a book that explained what the PCT was, and she is going it alone so immediately it becomes obvious that she is a person of unbelievable faith in her own abilities or she’s unbelievably out of her mind. She made many mistakes that could have ended in catastrophe. She had an incredible amount of luck.

Strayed is determination personified, to say the least. How she coped with the loneliness, extreme heat, bitter cold, deteriorating footwear, wild animals, record setting snow pack, and brain freezing boredom is beyond me. But cope she did.

”The thing about hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, the thing that was so profound to me that summer---and yet also, like most things, so very simple---was how few choices I had and how often I had to do the thing I least wanted to do. How there was no escape or denial. No numbing it down with a martini or covering it up with a roll in the hay. As I clung to the chaparral that day, attempting to patch up my bleeding finger, terrified by every sound that the bull was coming back, I considered my options. There were only two and they were essentially the same. I could go back in the direction I had come from or I could go forward in the direction I intended to go. The bull, I acknowledged grimly, could be in either direction, since I hadn’t seen where he’d run once I closed my eyes. I could only choose between the bull that would take me back and the bull that would take me forward. And so I walked on.” (Page 76)

Written with passion and never maudlin, this is one memoir I can heartily recommend. As she ticks off the miles and gets ready for the final push to the Oregon/Washington border, I found myself cheering her determination, her gritty performance and her possibilities for a wonderful life.
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LibraryThing member jnwelch
Chery Strayed, the author of Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, didn't have much growing up, but her mother always said "We aren't poor, because we're rich in love." Her mother was everything to the family, a "spectacular mom" despite her deficiencies. But she then unexpectedly dies of cancer before turning fifty. Her parting time with the author is heartwrenching. Once she dies, the family splinters, and the 26 year old author begins to engage in self-destructive behavior. Her cringe-inducing honesty is critical to understanding what follows. She decides she will save waitressing money and hike the Pacific Crest Trail for 100 days, a hike that will eventually take her from the Mojave Desert in California to Oregon.

She's totally inexperienced. She does some smart things, including having a friend ship a box of food, money (a constant worry at stopping points), and a new book, to strategic locations spaced along her trip. She does lots of not very smart things, too. Her backpack (nicknamed "Monster") is heavier than those carried by the largest men she encounters, and her shoes are a constant problem. Despite the downward trajectory in her life, her willpower is extraordinary. "I decided I was safe. I was strong. I was brave. . . . Every time I heard a sound of unknown origin or felt something horrible cohering in my imagination, I pushed it away. I simply did not let myself become afraid." She can't imagine anything worse happening than her mother dying anyway.

That is not to say she doesn't have many, many scary moments, some natural, some human. Quitting comes to mind frequently, especially at the outset. She's nonetheless driven to complete the mission she assigned herself, not to change her into a different person, "but back to the person I used to be - strong and responsible, clear-eyed and driven, ethical and good." The woman who begins the hike is nowhere near being that person.

She is adept at conveying the deprivations, the physical challenges and pain, so that the reader fully understands the relief of crawling into her tent at the end of the day and reading a book. At times she looks like "the victim of a violent and bizarre crime . . . as if I'd been beaten with sticks." As she gets stronger, however, she also is adept at conveying the beauty that surrounds her (the daily "unexpected and sweet happenings that stand out in stark relief to the challenges of the trail"), the joys of meeting comrades on the trail, and magnified significance of small kindnesses.

The books she is reading are important to her throughout her journey. She even managed to hit me with a book bullet for The Ten Thousand Things by Maria Dermout, a Dutch novel that sounds like it deserves to be better known. Close to my heart, the most important book to her, that she keeps with her the entire way, is one of the first poetry books I fell in love with, Adrienne Rich's Dream of a Common Language. A common language of love, pain, hope. You will enjoy sharing that common language with Cheryl Strayed on her journey in this remarkable book.
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LibraryThing member atheist_goat
Strayed is the type of person who would legally change her name to "Strayed", and that sort of tells you all you need to know. The basic plot of this book is that Strayed's mother dies and she then cheats on her husband and does heroin and hikes the Pacific Crest Trail and is hot. There is an utterly absurd and soft-core-porny section near the end that exists only because Strayed wants to make it very clear that after months on the trail she was still effortlessly hot enough to pick up a random guy in a bar who then talked for two days about how gorgeous she is, and she's going to write down every word he said for posterity. The tone of the whole book is like that: I Am A Unique Snowflake Because No One Else Is Hot Or Tough Or Beloved Enough To Do This. Quite literally in places: see the chapter about being "the Queen of the PCT" because everyone wants to do things for her.

The thing is, she was twenty-six when she did this. Twenty-six-year-olds are obnoxious. But she didn't write the book when she was twenty-six; she wrote it in her early forties. (I don't at all doubt there is hard-core self-loathing about aging behind the constant emphasis on being the most beautiful woman in California.) When you read Julie & Julia, for example, you come out of it thinking, "God, Julie Powell's an obnoxious twenty-something," but that's what she was when she was writing it. It's perfectly possible to write a memoir looking back on your early twenties and detail that you were a hot mess, and why, and do it affectionately. There's no insight in this book. It's as if Strayed can only see the timeline of her mother's sudden, early death and the events that followed; she doesn't see any causation or feel the need to get into it if she does see it. For a book in a self-reflecting genre, it's bizarrely lacking in any actual self-reflection. She tells a story about being too cool for therapy because there's nothing "a man" (her words) can tell her about herself, and for three hundred pages she treats her readers like that therapist (I know everything about my own psyche, so I don't have to tell you, and I don't sleep around because I have daddy issues, I do it because I'm so beautiful, and did I mention that my husband on whom I cheated drove 1700 miles to rescue me when he heard I was doing heroin?). I haven't the faintest idea why I finished this book.
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LibraryThing member rainpebble
Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Coast Trail by Cheryl Strayed

At 22 Cheryl thought she had lost everything. Her mother had died, her family was scattered and her marriage was soon history. Four years later with nothing more to lose, she made a spur of the moment decision to hike the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to Washington and to hike it alone. She was not an experienced distance hiker and the trail was little more than “an idea, vague and outlandish and full of promise.” But Cheryl thought it just may pull her life back together.
She came face to face with rattlesnakes and black bear. The heat was unbearable and she suffered record snowfalls. But she also learned the beauty of this trail & of nature. And she learned to be alone. The story is told with suspense and is imbued with warmth and humor. Cheryl describes the horrors and the wonder of forging ahead against all odds on a journey that frustrated, strengthened, and in the end healed her psyche.
I know that scores of people loved this book. And while I found it to be fairly interesting & I did want to know how it ended, it just didn't quite work for me on many levels. But hey, that's just me.
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LibraryThing member vwinsloe
Kind of a slap in the face to people who actually train and prepare for such an athletic undertaking. I felt like the reader is being used as a kleenex by this author to wipe her sniveling nose on. I would have resented paying for her therapy if I had bought the book instead of borrowing it from the library.

There were a couple of really well written, engaging passages such as one about putting her mother's old horse down. But most of it read like someone's journal--pretty boring.… (more)
LibraryThing member LovingLit
Cheryl Strayed is in a low place after a painful divorce and the death of her mother with whom she was so close. She is unfocussed and all over the place. On a whim she picks up a guide book about the Pacific Crest walking trail, and goes back the next day to purchase the book. It was this act that set her on her course of walking for 1000-odd miles, alone. During the walk she excises her demons, remembering her mother, forgiving herself and others for their wrongdoings, lets go of regrets and becomes a "together" person again. Easy right?

But all the while we hear of blistered and broken feet, pain from walking, the day to day monotony of walking and the contrast of that to the utter and irrepressible beauty of the wilderness she is going through. The focus of her mind on immediate needs like water, food, safety and rest allow her to realise what her priorities were and what they might be in future.

I loved the memories of my own solo walking and travelling this book brought back to me. The accomplishment felt at the end of a trip for simply making it through the times when it felt impossible is something that stays with you. And this author not only had such a wonderful story to tell, she told it superbly. She is able to describe the banal act of walking in minute detail- the feel, the fear, the pain and the utter aloneness that makes your fate completely up to you
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LibraryThing member Berly
I loved this book! Gut-wrenching honesty, beautiful writing, humor. What's not to like? Cheryl's life is falling apart in so, so many ways. Let me share a little piece of the book.

My mother's "death had obliterated me. It had cut me short at the very height of my youthful arrogance. It had forced me to instantly grow up and forgive her every motherly fault at the same time that it kept me forever a child, my life both ended and begun in that premature place where we'd left off. She was my mother, but I was motherless. I was trapped by her but utterly alone. She would always be the empty bowl that no one could fill. I'd have to fill it myself again and again and again."

Cheryl seeks out solitude to find herself, to forgive herself. To just be. She impulsively sets off on a hike across the Pacific Crest Trail, traveling through the Mojave Desert, up through California and Oregon to Washington state. An impressive enough undertaking, but to add to the craziness...she does this by herself. Alone.

Let me share just one of the mishaps of this insane trip:

My pack "toppled over onto my boots, clipping the left one is such a way that it leapt into the air as if I'd thrown it. I watched it bounce--it was lightning fast and in slow motion all at once--and then I watched it tumble over the edge of the mountain and down in to the trees without a sound. I gasped in surprise and lurched for my other boot, clutching it to my chest, waiting for the moment to reverse itself, for someone to come laughing from the woods, shaking his head and saying it had all been a joke.

"But no one laughed. No one would. The universe, I'd learned, was never, ever kidding. It would take whatever it wanted and it would never give it back. I really did have only one boot.

"So I stood up and tossed the other one over the edge too. I looked down at my bare feet, staring at them for a long moment, then began repairing my sandals with duct tape...."

Don't you want to read more? It is one of the finalists for this year's Oregon Books Award, to be announced in April.
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LibraryThing member ElizabethAndrew
I didn't like WILD. Call me a curmudgeon, accuse me of deliberately resisting the latest fads in publishing, even think me a prude. I expect more self-awareness from authors.

Cheryl Strayed's story is great: Flattened by the death of her mother, she walks the Pacific Crest Trail as a way to move through her grief. She's 26 and completely unprepared for the hike, so her adventures along the way are gripping. So I can see why this book is popular now; it's a page-turner. Strayed reminds me a lot of Mary Karr in her hip voice and extraordinary narrative skills. Her opening pages describe one of her boots falling off a cliff mid-hike--what a brilliant beginning! (And also very much like Karr's opening to THE LIAR'S CLUB.)

So Strayed has a great plot, but books get their life-force from the connection between outer and inner events, and I found her inner story lacking. Yes, the death of a mother is wrenching, but most of people who lose mothers don't obsessively cheat on their spouse, spiral into addiction, and persevere on a sadistic and dangerous hike. What else made this loss so profound? How exactly did the hardships she encountered on the trail transform her grief? The links between the outer events and her inner transformation were never clear to me.

In part this is because Strayed highlights other titillating elements of the story (sex, drugs, alcohol) above her grief. The book's climax is a two-day sexual encounter with a stranger in Ashland, on break from hiking. These scenes get far more attention than Strayed's grief but they only illustrate how little she's been changed by her trials. Sure, they're a great read. But they don't work to support the character's central journey.

I also wished for more narrative distance throughout. Strayed 26-year-old-self has no perspective on her grief. I imagine the author does, now, or at least I hope so, and I want that insight to give me compassion for this young woman. As it reads, I just felt annoyed at her.

Okay, so I want emotional awareness from my authors and I don't want titillating material to obscure a book's heart. Hurrumph. Now go enjoy this book.
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LibraryThing member SugarCreekRanch
I've spent a lot of daylight hours (no overnights) on the Pacific Crest Trail, and I'm always fascinated when I cross paths with a "through hiker". These amazing folks trek for months, some of them from Mexico to Canada, never straying far from the trail. So I was immediately attracted to this book, wanting to know more about this experience. Truthfully, I was a little disappointed once I saw that it was just as much about a personal, internal journey as it was about the literal journey. But I wasn't disappointed for long.

Cheryl Strayed is a gifted writer, and I was involved in her story immediately. She decided to solo-hike a large portion of the PCT almost on a whim, and is miserably unprepared for the reality of the undertaking. The book intersperses physical trail challenges (injuries, wild animals, scary terrain crossings, etc) with self-reflection on her messed-up life to that point. When she describes her experiences on the PCT, she doesn't spend a lot of time describing the beauty all around her. Instead, it is about the emotions she experienced on the trail, how the trail affected her, and how the distance from her "real life" gave her the courage to grow up. And it's very powerful stuff.
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LibraryThing member writerbeverly
Talk about a Wild read.

First off, yes, Cheryl Strayed was half-crazy to even conceive of making a solo hike across the Pacific Crest Trail, and she made lots of mistakes, before, during, and undoubtedly, after. She's lucky to be alive to write about some of the mistakes she made, and rather than taking this book as a how-to, much of it should be taken as a how-not-to.

Don't be born into a household where your dad beats up your mom.
Don't live in poverty after your abused mom leaves your abusive dad.
Don't marry when you're too young to understand or make a long-term commitment to another person.
Don't let your mom die of cancer.
Don't drop out of college when you have only one more semester to go.
Don't sleep with endless men to try to fill the mom-shaped hole inside you.
Don't snort, smoke, or inject heroin.
Don't shoot your mom's horse because you don't have the money to pay a vet to euthanize it.
Don't depend solely on written material to prep for a two-month-plus solo expedition in the wilderness.
Don't go hiking in boots that don't allow room for your feet to swell.
Don't load a backpack too heavy for a sane person to carry.
Don't forget to watch for rattlesnakes.
Don't mispack the cash in your resupply boxes.


But, if you HAVE done any/all of the above:

Do love your mother deeply.
Do bond closely with your sister and brother.
Do everything you can to bring comfort to your dying mom, even when it's hard and her suffering is horrific.
Do read everything you can get your hands on.
Do make such a friend of your ex-spouse that you can call him and know he's still got your back.
Do get an absolutely awesome horse tattoo in honor of your mom.
Do make friends cool enough and reliable enough to mail your resupply boxes exactly when and where you need them.
Do name your outrageously heavy backpack "Monster."
Do use all the sign-ins along the trail.
Do ALWAYS use your water filter and/or iodine tablets to prevent giardia and other icky water-borne diseases, no matter how thirsty you are.
Do shred and burn books to lighten your load.
Do peel off dead toenails as necessary.
Do pick up a ski pole or walking stick at the first opportunity.
Do keep a journal and take photos of your adventure.
Do by-pass the sections of the trail socked-in by snow when all the more experienced hikers are doing the exact same thing.
Do make friends and allies along the trail, and listen when they help you lighten your pack.
Do use condoms if/when you have spontaneous sex along the way.
Do trust your gut instincts and avoid skeevy people.
Do use your journey to help your head, heart, and life get into the right place.
Do write an account of your journey, and submit it for publication.
Do enjoy "overnight success."


I loved this book, and loved it more because Cheryl was NOT perfect, and didn't pretend to be. If anything, she emphasized her mistakes, and minimized the many, many things she did right, despite the reality that her father's domestic violence, and her mother's death, left her with deep soul-wounds. She tells this story with humor, with honesty and poignancy, and no, it's not a travelogue describing all the stunning features one might find along the PCT. There are other books which do that. This woman went looking to get her life and soul back on track, and she did it.
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LibraryThing member susiesharp
Part boring, part completely unbelievable with a very few little sparks of her actually coming to grips with her life.

Some of the things that drove me insane about this book:

-- The boots that didn’t fit but didn’t slow her down at all then there were her toenails and the ripping of them off and that didn’t slow her down either. Then hiking the mountains in sandals covered in duct tape, come on, really?

--All the men she thought wanted to have sex with her, honey you have been hiking through the mountains you are dirty, sweaty and just plain nasty, this is all in your head!

-- She also seemed to have the quickest and easiest heroin withdrawal of anyone I’ve ever heard of, she just decided one day to quit and never had a single withdrawal symptom or DT’s or anything

--Do I really care that you are too tired to even masturbate? No, really, No, I never needed to know that and why you chose to keep that in the book makes no sense to me.

Some of the things I liked about this book:

Umm well there was…..

No… wait….

Yeah there was the part…

Um no not that either
Oh what about….

No not that.

Well you get the drift.

2 stars
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LibraryThing member VivienneR
Strayed wrote this memoir describing her 1,100 mile solo hike along the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert in California through Oregon and into Washington. Aged 26 and without any hiking experience, she set out alone on the trek after being devastated by the death of her mother.

I really liked the hiking story itself - how she prepared (or didn't prepare, in this case), what she was afraid of, what made her confident, the landscape, the physical challenges. Although she mulled over her life in flashbacks, these reflections added little to the story, and did not lead to any conclusions or realizations. It is to be expected that personal information is necessary to let the reader know how and why she came to decide on such an extreme undertaking, but Strayed returned often to her use of heroin, promiscuous sex, and her mother's death, which detracted from the main story - or maybe that was the main story. Half a star off for the gratuitous sex encounter near the finish that I preferred to skip. In the end, I enjoyed this interesting and entertaining memoir. Kudos to Strayed for her huge achievement.… (more)
LibraryThing member ASmithey
'Alone had always felt like an actual place to me, as if it weren't a state of being, but rather a room where I could retreat and be who I really was.'

I received this book from my Aunt, who happens to be very active and athletic. She said it was phenomenal, and my immediate reaction was,'Really? I mean, when was the last time you saw me do anything athletic?! How am I going to be able to relate to a hiker? And am I really going to like reading about a woman hiking some Crest Trail?' So, alas, it sat on my bookshelf until I decided I should just read it, maybe I would at least learn something about hiking.

Now, I am kicking myself for not reading it sooner. I don't know how to feel now that I am finished. I feel like I was just let into the darkest corners of Cheryl Strayed's life, and how she overcame so much while trying to find some peace in her life. Sure, the book has plenty to do with hiking, and her trials and tribulations on the trail (which were incredibly interesting, to my surprise), but at the center of this memoir is the story of a broken woman trying to make herself whole again. Reading this book felt like I was reading a kind of therapy session. That this was Strayed's way of finally 'closing the book' (no pun intended!) on a difficult yet enlightening period of her life.

I related to her in so many ways. I grieved with her in so many ways. I pitied her in so many ways. And overall, I rooted for her every step of the way.

I will be playing this story over and over in my mind for a long time, I have a feeling. SO worth the read. One of the best books I've read all year, or ever for that matter.

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LibraryThing member SamSattler
Cheryl Strayed (a fitting surname she assumed after her divorce) was only 26 when she decided to start over. Her life was a mess, and Strayed, recognizing just how dangerous and destructive that life had become, decided to make some drastic changes. Her mother, a 45-year-old cancer victim who had been the glue holding the family together, was gone. Her brother and sister, whom she had not been close to in recent years, drifted out of her life after their mother died. Then Strayed cut the last close tie she had by divorcing her husband, a man she still professed to love very much.

Strayed, an avowed risk-taker, is also impetuous – not a safe combination. This would, in fact, lead her into serious drug experimentation, promiscuousness, and the keeping of some rather dubious company. But it was that same impetuousness that placed her on the Pacific Crest Trail to begin the 1,100 mile personal journey that would turn her life in a new direction. That is the good news; the bad news is that she was totally unprepared for what was ahead as she began her walk through California and Oregon.

Thus begins one of the most grueling solo treks imaginable for a young woman as unready as Cheryl Strayed was when she took her first steps on the PCT. She began by making two critical mistakes that would combine to make her miserable for weeks: wearing shoes that were probably a full size too small (a decision that would cost her more than half her toenails) and carrying a pack that weighed more than fifty percent of her own body weight. Less painful perhaps, but much more dangerous, was her neglect to research the terrain and weather conditions she would face as her elevation rose and the temperature dropped. All of this makes her accomplishment even more remarkable.

Reading Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail is almost like walking along side Strayed and listening to her think out loud. This is a very personal book, less about hiking the actual PCT than it is about what placed Strayed on the trail in the first place. Strayed recounts enough incidents of stress and personal danger to enthrall even the most experienced hiker (many of which, I suspect, will be particularly meaningful to women who must cringe at the thought of being as personally vulnerable as she made herself on this hike) but even her periods of methodical, downtime-walking are not wasted.

Cheryl Strayed has written one of the more compelling and honest memoirs of recent years. She holds nothing back, making it a real pleasure to read (and difficult not to cheer aloud, in the process) the final few pages of Wild.

Rated at: 4.0
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LibraryThing member EasyEd
Great read. What a great personal story of overcoming life issues and finding yourself. If you've ever wondered about being alone, taking risks, finding out about who you are and what you're made of, this is the book for you.
LibraryThing member jtlauderdale
Every time I picked this book up, me feet started to hurt.
LibraryThing member bragan
When Cheryl Strayed was 26, her beloved mother died of a particularly swift and brutal form of cancer. The loss devastated her, so much so that three years later her grief still felt raw, her life was spinning out of control, and her marriage was dissolving for no very good reason. At this point, she made an impulsive and frankly pretty crazy decision: in an attempt to get her head together, she would spend three months hiking over a thousand miles through the wilderness on the Pacific Crest Trail. This, despite the fact that she had no backpacking experience whatsoever.

In this memoir, she talks about her mother's life and death, her own complex, difficult, and often self-destructive emotions, her experiences along the trail, what she expected her journey to do for her, and what it actually did. It's all very well-written. Her difficulties and emotions are conveyed with a remarkable and often rather painful honesty, and her descriptions of her days on the trail ring very true. I've never done anything remotely like her wilderness odyssey, but in the places where her experiences overlap a bit with my own much more limited ones -- particularly hiking through the desert while tired and dehydrated -- I found myself thinking, "Yes, she's captured it. That is exactly what it's like."

I must confess that Cheryl herself -- her personality and her choices -- resonated much less well with me than her perceptions of life on the trail. At many points, I found it difficult not to feel judgmental towards her for behaviors and attitudes that seemed to me flighty, irresponsible, or self-absorbed. Although, in fairness, her narrative voice as she recounts all this decades later does give the impression of having gained some thoughtful maturity. And, given that, the openness with which she is willing to reveal her flawed younger self to readers, with neither whitewashing nor excuses, is admirable and appreciated.
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LibraryThing member AgneJakubauskaite
DISCLAIMER: This is a review of an audiobook.

WHAT IS IT ABOUT?

“Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail” by Cheryl Strayed is an honest and lyrical memoir of the author’s physically challenging and emotionally healing solo hike on a 1,100-mile section of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). In her early twenties, Strayed lost her mother to lung cancer. Overcome with grief, the author wrecked her marriage and dove into reckless sex and occasional drug abuse. At the age of 26, Strayed had nothing else to lose and, in the hopes of finding peace with herself, she made the most impulsive decision in her life: to hike the PCT, alone and with barely any experience or preparation.

THUMBS UP:

1) Raw and shameless.
Strayed revealed her deepest thoughts, feelings and desires, many of which are shockingly candid and thus seem authentic and compelling. The author did plenty of questionable things, but her choice to openly address these things is extremely brave and bold, making her story powerful and relatable.

2) Entertaining and beautifully narrated.
Although neither Strayed’s life story nor her writing are extraordinary, I enjoyed her entertaining and lyrical narrative. Strayed character is flawed and often seems foolish, but I felt compassion for her as well as admired her bravery to hike the PCT alone and her decision to turn back to nature in order to patch up her life. Throughout the whole book I could feel nature’s healing power, which sparked my desire to spend more time in nature myself.

3) Great wrap-up.
I loved the concluding paragraphs of “Wild.” Such a simple and concise yet a powerful and satisfying closure! Now it’s clear why the author published her memoir almost two decades after she hiked the PCT.

COULD BE BETTER:

1) Overly sentimental.
Occasionally, I found “Wild” too sentimental even for someone as Strayed, who clearly has been through a lot. In my experience, the book is often more powerful when the author simply tells the story and leaves the judgment to the reader rather than whines to win over the audience. For example, I do understand that losing one’s mother is a devastating experience; however, telling over and over how devastating it is, does NOT make it more devastating but soon gets annoying and also makes the author seem quite self-absorbed. In addition, Bernadette Dunne’s narration is BEAUTIFUL but it is also quite emotional, even at the places where it’s not supposed to be emotional at all.

2) Excuses, excuses…
Strayed character obviously made A LOT of bad choices, which is human. However, I got the impression that the author cannot take the responsibility for her own actions and is trying very hard to convince the reader that whatever she has done wasn’t really her fault, or that she had no choice, or that it wasn’t that bad, or all of the above. Also, it almost seems that everything she did wrong was because of her mother’s death.

VERDICT:

Cheryl Strayed’s “Wild” is a candid, entertaining and lyrical memoir. Although Strayed character is occasionally excessively sentimental, quite irresponsible and self-absorbed, overall “Wild” is an enjoyable and relatable read, which will definitely spark a great book club discussion.
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LibraryThing member Lynn_Barker
The excellent descriptions and compelling personal story held my attention throughout this long adventure book. The author's experience of (mostly) solo backpacking California to Washington is worth reading. Though her achievement is notable, and her story held my interest, I got a little tired of her whining. Like other writers of her generation, she just comes across as a little too self-absorbed, shallow, and immature. For example, she is shocked and hurt when a couple of ungenerous caretakers do not allow her to camp for free in the local campground. She feels entitled to special consideration because she is a "PCT hiker." Her honesty as a writer is part of the appeal of her story. However, she may have overestimated how much the reader really cares to know about her emotional processes and sexual encounters. That said, I believe Strayed is a gifted writer who seems to speak for her generation.… (more)
LibraryThing member ahef1963
Review in 25 words or less: The author takes a long and arduous hike to help herself recover from her recent divorce and her mother's death.

I picked up "Wild" yesterday, and in the intervening 28 hours, have done little but read it. Compulsive, intimate, descriptive, agonizing, Cheryl Strayed has used her considerable skill with prose to bring the reader down with her to her worst moments, and to the summit with her, when she is literally and figuratively on the mountain-top.

Ravaged by the too-young and sudden death of her mother, assuaging her grief with anonymous sex, heroin, and the ruination of her marriage, Ms. Strayed takes the almost-ridiculous decision to hike 1,100 miles of the Pacific Coast Trail from California to Oregon. She is completely unprepared for the rigours of the trail, underfunded, over-packed, in hiking boots a size too small, and yet she soldiers on. Bears, rattlesnakes, bleeding feet, the loss of most of her toenails, thirst, hunger, the weight of her terrible backpack; she keeps going. During her trip she endures the heat of the Mojave Desert, over 100 degrees F, and wakes up to snow at another juncture.

Ms. Strayed's journey, physically, is almost unbelievable. I could not have done it, not on those mountains, not with those heights, and the endless climbing up and scrabbling down. I would be paralyzed with vertigo, and I feared for her through the entire book. For many years I have contemplated taking a long walk, a monumentally long one, but not along a trail like this. I admire both the book and the guts and the oomph it took to get her through the journey.

It's great reading. I love books about walking tours, and this is one of the best. Recommended for anyone who loves personal battles, travel writing, or who dreams of hiking alone.
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LibraryThing member bookworm12
I was really not excited about this book. People kept recommending it and I just wasn’t interested. I finally caved and decided to listen to the audiobook. I got about 1/3 of the way through it and I just couldn’t stand Cheryl. She was whining about everything and it seemed to me like she was just using the tragedy she’d experienced to justifying her bad behavior. My Mom died when I was younger too, so I feel pretty strongly about people using things like that as excuses to make horrible life choices. Grief does not give you the right to commit adultery or use heroine.

That being said, Cheryl grew on me as the book progressed. She was so honest about her experiences. She could have sugar-coated it or painted herself in a better light, but instead she just lays herself bare, faults and all. The result is an incredibly intense book that was surprisingly powerful.

Cheryl’s memoir mainly covers her time hiking 1,100 miles on the Pacific Crest Trail. It flashes back and forth between the grueling hike, her childhood and her early twenties when her mother died and her marriage ended.

She writes with such delicate attention to detail that you can almost feel the blisters forming on her aching feet. There’s one disturbing scene with a horse that remains particularly ingrained in my mind. Cheryl is just so raw throughout the book. She’s was an inexperienced hiker and wasn’t prepared for her trip, but she still pushes on. She is trying to process her grief, the bad decisions she’s made, her future life, etc. all while putting her body through the most intense physical experience of her life.

BOTTOM LINE: I struggled through the beginning, but I’m glad I stuck with it. Cheryl might be a very different person from me, but her willingness to be honest about her struggle made for an intense memoir that I couldn’t put down.
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LibraryThing member BraveNewBks
I think the chapter about divorcing her husband exemplifies why I kindof hate her. I felt that implicit in her story was a kindof messed-up pride in how much she fell apart after her mom died. Sortof like my-grief-is-worse-than-your-grief, in a nasty way, and not that it's a competition, but it came across like that. Like that she doesn't expect any of us to get just how devastating that loss was, because we've never been so devastated that we turned to casual sex and heroin usage and blind destruction of seemingly happy marriages.

Also, she is kindof an idiot. Hiking an 1100-mile trail is not the time to go all Blanche DuBois and depend on the kindness of total strangers (who are all awestruck that a WOMAN is HIKING by HERSELF because WHOA and you'd better let us help you out there, li'l missy!). I get the feeling she's just lucky she happened to choose hiking the PCT instead of, say, climbing Everest. Because then she would have died. And there would have been no book. I will allow that at least one of those events would qualify as a tragedy.

I won't deny that parts of it made for an interesting read, though. There's a reason there's so much trashy reality TV these days -- other people's stupidity can be surprisingly compelling.
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LibraryThing member hifiny
I enjoyed the narrative of her time on the Pacific Coast Trail, much like an friend telling for of a great trip she had experienced. However, I never felt there was a compelling story, and in the end asked, 'so what?'
LibraryThing member maggie1944
I finished reading Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail and I have to say I was a tad disappointed. I certainly think it was a good book, and I will give it a 3.5 stars but I missed some in depth understanding of how she processed her overwhelming grief. She had grieved for her Mother, and her destroyed marriage, for years; and had sought solace in drugs (which of course did not help). Then she takes this wild idea of a long distance hike and does it with a total lack of preparation. Her book treats the disasters, and near disasters too briefly and treats the psychological healing as if it just happened with no effort while she was out in the sunshine. I am dubious. I think more went on and she did not share.

OK, I know, not my place to insist she tells us all the bloody details. So, it is a good book, and I do recommend it, I'm just saying I was dsappointed.
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