It’s a funny thing. I loved Wild by Cheryl Strayed, the author’s memoir of her 1100 mile hike along the American Pacific Crest Trail. Wild left me feeling happy and uplifted and all of those beaut things, but I was not left with the urge to buy a pair of hiking boots, spray myself with insect repellant and stride off into the bush.
The funny thing is that after reading a novel called The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce last year, all I wanted to do was walk out of my front door and up the street to the main road, before deciding whether to turn left or right, then keep on walking. The only thing stopping me from starting a journey of my own, in my slippers, was knowing I had library books to return.
Despite me not feeling like making a physical journey of my own, Wild is a great story. The author, Cheryl Strayed was 26 and a relatively inexperienced long distance hiker when she decided to hike the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), alone, from California through Oregon to Washington State. Hikers cross deserts, climb up and down mountains, and suffer through blazing heat and freezing snow while they are following the PCT. Cheryl Strayed made her trip wearing boots which were too small and carrying a backpack so heavy and cumbersome, she called her backpack ‘Monster.’
Cheryl was struggling emotionally with the death of her mother, the subsequent breakup of her family and the end of her marriage when she decided to hike the PCT. She had also been using heroin, and while not an addict, was dangerously close to losing control. Her decision to hike the PCT was not well planned, she was underprepared, short of money and emotionally unstable, but the trip turned out to be the making of her.
Despite her sadness, Cheryl’s writing never made me feel as if she was inviting my pity. Instead, I laughed with her during her adventures and enjoyed the trip, feeling as I too was dodging rattlesnakes and watching out anxiously for bears or other humans.
The description of Wild is ‘A Journey from Lost to Found,’ which obviously describes the author’s mental and emotional journey, rather than the physical hike along the PCT. Cheryl Strayed is brutally honest about her own faults, and tells the whole world of her infidelities and other behaviour which most people would never share. She certainly made some stupid choices, and was lucky to come out of that time in her life without further damage.
However, all of the above led to a book which I really enjoyed. Those who enjoy ‘self-help’ type books would probably get something from Wild. I’ll probably watch the movie, which starred Reese Witherspoon, and am particularly looking forward to seeing the scenery.