I typically don’t get around to reading new or bestselling books until they’ve been out for a while and fairly well covered by the blogophere. I used to try to make reviews part of our content, but unless the book is topical to what we normally cover, I always figure you probably won’t be interested. My reads are kind of all over the place sometimes and there is absolutely no rhyme or reason to my choices.
A few months back, I read Chrissy’s review of Wild, by Cheryl Strayed. I’d seen the book pop up in a few places, but after reading her review (she has great taste) I added it to my list to read this summer.
For me, Strayed’s Wild is cut from a mold somewhat similar to that of Into the Wild and Eat Pray Love. There is a cataclysmic event that prompts and extreme reaction, subsequently in all cases, a departure.
For Strayed, the death of her mother and unexpected disintegration of her family and marriage prompted a lapse into careless sex and drugs. After hitting somewhat of a bottom, she decides to start hit the reset button with a 1,100 mile solo backpacking trip on the Pacific Coast Trail. For those of you unfamiliar with the trail, it starts at the US Border with Mexico and runs all the way to Canada, criss-crossing the Cascades and the Sierra Nevada mountains. It’s a hike few are privileged to complete, as it takes several months.
As Chrissy mentions in her review, Strayed’s inexperience in making the decision to not only hike the trail alone but pack and prepare in ways that can only be described as “inadequate’ and “precarious” both helps and hurts her. For example, the painful physical consequences of packing too much and wearing ill-fitting shoes actually serve to aid the healing process of both her mother’s death and divorce from her husband through distraction. And while her inexperience with hiking and backpacking puts her in a lot of risky and flat-out dangerous situations, it also enables her to seek out and meet people who change her life. Had she been more independently capable, she might have overlooked them.
As I did in Eat Pray Love with Elizabeth Gilbert, I found myself going back and forth with how I felt about Cheryl. There were times she absolutely frustrated me and I found myself wanting to quit the book, but as the pages turned, I grew to respect and admire her, probably more so than I was able to with Gilbert. Strayed is brutally honest in her writing, both about her experiences on the trail and in the events leading up to her hike.
Without giving too much more away, I thoroughly enjoyed the book. It was a little slow (and very sad) leading up to her hike, but her beautiful memories of her mother, her experiences on the trail and the people she meets along the way are a worthwhile reward. I finished it in a day and spent a few hours watching interviews and catching up on her life after she finished the hike.
It feels so good to be reading more regularly and finishing books in less than 3 months. Since changing jobs and working at home, I’ve been able to kind of structure my own day, leaving me with more free time and a lack of coworkers “in-house” that erases any apprehension I used to have about taking random reading breaks between project work.
A few things I came across after reading Wild:
- TEDxConcordiaUPortland – Radical Sincerity
- Pacific Northwest Writer’s Association – Interview
- Pacific Crest Trail Thru Hike – What’s in my pack
Read any good books lately?
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