Review of Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail
I read Cheryl Strayed’s book almost the way that Cheryl hiked the Pacific Crest Trail: hard, with not too many stops, and with a devotion that bordered on the maniacal. It is a good book in that it accomplishes what she wants, to bring to life the hardship and wonder of pushing your body to unendurable limits. I mean, the name of her knapsack was Monster, and I would have given it a few more besides if I’d been her. With no real experience of backpacking she hikes for 1100 miles from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to Washington State in boots that are too small and a packsack that even veterans of the trail could hardly lift. At times, she believes the spirit of her dead mother is watching her, sometimes helping her. At other times, I would assume that she’d blush to have her mother watching over her, as she rashly decides on one-night stands.
Her old life would catch up to her at the most inconvenient times: when she was 22 her life was veering out of control with a marriage that was over, her mother dead, her family scattered and her drug abuse mounting. To say that she was impulsive is an understatement. How does this all tie up in her memoir? Each chapter is both a struggle with her hiking, (the boots, the endless urgings for Snapple and food, the weight of her pack) and with coming to terms with her past. Each chapter has a person’s name associated with it - her father’s and those memories, her ex-husband’s, her mother’s. Each one is grappled with and then closed as the chapter closes. She finds closure with her past and as she does so her journey becomes bearable.
I wouldn’t for all the world want to come to terms with my grief the way Cheryl did with the endless torture of walking, the way the body breaks down under stress and all the haunting memories, but it seemed to release her from her self-destructive tendencies in a remarkable way. This is what I loved most about this book; there is no psychobabble in it, no big ahah moment, no one to take the camera picture. She is just there, constantly improving with no visible understanding of why.
- Laurie Schut