Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Book Review: Wild by Cheryl Strayed

I’ve done a lot of reading over the past six months, and somehow I haven’t published a single Book Review in that timeframe.  How is that even possible?  There are a few fluffy books that I won’t be reviewing, but as soon as I read “Wild” I knew I had to blog about it.

First, a quick synopsis from the author’s websiteAt 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. With no experience or training, driven only by blind will, she would hike more than a thousand miles of the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to Washington State—and she would do it alone. Told with suspense and style, sparkling with warmth and humor, Wild powerfully captures the terrors and pleasures of one young woman forging ahead against all odds on a journey that maddened, strengthened, and ultimately healed her.

When the book was first recommended to me, I wondered how interesting the book could even be when the bulk of the pages is dedicated to Cheryl's journey - literally walking by herself through the woods.  It seems like it’d be tricky to turn that monotony in to easily passing pages. But somehow that is simply not an issue – I read the book in a matter of a few days because it is THAT good.  The book is about Cheryl hiking… but it’s also much more than that.  Though she's alone for most of the time, it turns in to a relationship book, in a way. Stories about her childhood, her relationship with her mother, her relationship with her ex-husband, her relationship with sex, her relationship with drugs.  We learn so much about Cheryl – and details that make us cringe, in some cases – and yet we still like her so much.  It’s an interesting contrast – her flaws make her more human, I suppose.

There are chapters and passages that are extremely difficult to read (the pages dedicated to flashbacks about her mother’s death were really hard to read – I had to put the book down a couple of times to take a quick breather).  There are sections that are suspenseful and even a little frightening.  And there are quotation gems that I can’t get out of my head, months after finishing the book (“how wild it is.. to let it be”, “it was the end of an era that had lasted my whole life”).

This is easily within the top 5 books that I’ve ever read… I cannot recommend this book strongly enough.  I found it incredibly profound – in a weird way, it’s a memoir about Cheryl finding herself, but somehow in the process, I felt like I found out more about MYself... even as I read from my couch.  Filming has begun on the movie version, so I’d recommend reading it before that comes out (partially because the choice of lead actress is a little disappointing).

Do yourself a favor - go read this book.

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