Wild by Cheryl Strayed
To a college student there is something appealing about the title Wild. Within each of us is this desire to be free, untamed, and out of control. This book offers a unique play on the word wild. Cheryl Strayed displays the very essence of wild in her story, while simultaneously showing, that despite her wild behavior, she is caged in by her own pain. Strayed, heart broken by her mother's unexpected death, walks down a slippery slope of drugs and promiscuous sex. From the first couple of pages Strayed makes it clear that this book is meant for mature readers. Her vulgarity and openness, despite its shrewdness, paints a clear picture for the reader of who Cheryl Strayed is.
After falling in to a snowball effect of sex and drugs, Strayed ruins her marriage and hitting rock bottom. One day, while at a local REI, Strayed stumbles upon a Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) guidebook. Little did she know, this guide book would send her on a life-changing journey backpacking on the PCT. The readers who are avid backpackers will leave this book itching to get on the trail. For the readers who do not consider themselves outdoorsy individuals, this book encourages adventure, and challenges its readers to consider the outrageous.
Strayed's imagery is often emotionally gripping. "...the snow packed into the ankles of my boots, my lower legs so snow-burned it felt as if the flesh had been scraped away with a dull knife." At times the gruesome imagery can seem a bit too much, but in many ways the grotesque descriptions help the reader identify with Strayed's heart break. Emotional pain is hard to conceptualize, but Strayed manages to make clear her emotional pain through the physical pains of her journey. The weight a backpacker carries along on the trail parallels beautifully with the weight of heart break a person carries in life. With each day on the trail the weight she carries gets easier and easier to manage. At times the journey for identity story can seem cliche, but Strayed's experiences make her story unique and entertaining.
Strayed ends her journey in Portland, Oregon. Although sad and apprehensive about leaving the PCT, she knows she is leaving with a heart that is ready for recovery. Over the course of this book the reader is enveloped in both Strayed's physical and emotional pain. Strayed did an amazing job of bringing the reader down to her pain level, but she lacks at bringing the reader up to her healing level. The reader simply does not walk away with the same feelings of accomplishment as Stayed does. Strayed does however successfully leave the reader with a knowledge that heartbreak is temporary and surmountable.
Strayed's memoir embodies the healing powers of nature through her journey on the PCT. Whether you are looking for an inspirational adventure or a compelling testimonial, Wild can satisfy both tastes. Cheryl Strayed brings you into her life and into her story, and leaves you knowing exactly what it felt like to walk the PCT in her shoes.
By: DEAN WITT