Bookworm: Wild

Boy, oh boy, do I have the summer read for you!  A friend recommended this book to me…no, not Oprah (though this is the first book selection for her new book club!).

In the book, Wild, Cheryl Strayed recounts how she used an epic hike (a three-month, 1,100-mile trek up the rugged and remote Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) from Tehachapi Pass in southern California to the northern Oregon border) to sort out a young life laid waste by death, divorce, self-destructive urges and a “ravenous” need for love.

The primary source of Strayed’s anguish was the death of her mother, Bobbi, “whose love was full-throated and all-encompassing.” Though Bobbi was a nonsmoker, she died of lung cancer at age 45, just seven weeks after being diagnosed with the disease (MAJOR f-bomb!). Strayed witnessed her mother’s rapid decline but missed the moment of her death, arriving at the hospital to find ice-filled surgical gloves covering Bobbi’s eyes to preserve her corneas for transplantation. Can you EVEN imagine? …I didn’t think so…

Strayed is a graceful writer, but Wild recounts an often-graceless existence. Among the failings she insists on scrutinizing are her infidelities, notably a heroin-fueled dalliance that prompted a trip to a Portland, Ore., abortion clinic. Strayed accepts full responsibility for the pain she inflicted on her “kind and tender” husband, Paul. A month after their divorce was finalized in May of 1995, Strayed hit the rocky (literally) trail.

An easy trip it was NOT. Cheryl Strayed falls. She gets lost. She gets confused. Her unbroken-in boots cause her immense and intense pain. They are the wrong size. She gets blisters, she loses toenails. She carries more than she needs and gives her backpack a name. Monster.

The list goes on…She runs out of water. She heads into town for supplies and encounters various situations, some good and some bad. She runs low on money. She is showered, occasionally, with kindness and occasionally takes a shower. She finds some beauty (Silver Linings, perhaps?), gets into a rhythm, and ponders her past. She craves lemonade and cheeseburgers.

“Wild” is as much an interior journey as it is her exterior footsteps on the trail.  I am a firm believer that pain is pain and the reason that this book is so crazily successful is that we are all recovering from something.

I sincerely hope that you enjoy this book as much as I did (Silver Lining)!

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  1. Kathi says

    I'm reading it now and I agree – it's fantastic! Her personal story is beautifully woven into her physical journey and the people she meets along the way are so interesting and colorful. I was worried it was going to be too much like "Eat Pray Love" (a book that in the end was a bit whiny for my taste) but it's definitely not. This woman knows how to write and does not indulge in one iota of self-pity. An incredible journey indeed!

  2. Linda says

    I suggested this book for my women's group (8 of us who meet once a month and discuss topics and sometimes books). I chose it based on fantastic reviews, and then Oprah chose it as well. Glad to see you enjoyed it. Can I use your line "we are all recovering from something?" Stay well.