This month, I am participating in Julie‘s July Book Club.
The book selected was “Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail” by Cheryl Strayed. Here’s a little synopsis from goodreads.com:
“At 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: to hike the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to Washington State—and to do it alone. She had no experience as a long-distance hiker, and the trail was little more than “an idea, vague and outlandish and full of promise.” But it was a promise of piecing back together a life that had come undone.
Strayed faces down rattlesnakes and black bears, intense heat and record snowfalls, and both the beauty and loneliness of the trail. Told with great suspense and style, sparkling with warmth and humor, Wild vividly captures the terrors and pleasures of one young woman forging ahead against all odds on a journey that maddened, strengthened, and ultimately healed her.”
Overall, I really really liked this book. As someone who really likes challenges, this book was right up my alley. Walking 1000 plus miles from California to Washington is clearly a challenge, so I was enthralled with the story of it.
I also loved the people Cheryl met along the way. For the most part, everyone was so nice and also very interesting. I was surprised with the diversity of the people she met, from a little boy on the trail to fifty and sixty year olds. I was almost more interested in some of their stories because the people she ran into were so different.
One thing I didn’t like about the book is that I wasn’t a huge fan of Cheryl herself. Having never been through the things in life that she had been through, I have no idea what was going on in her head, so I can’t really judge the way she reacted. But some of the things she said, did, and thought — while extremely honest — did not make me feel much sympathy for her. Overall, yes, I had a HUGE amount of sympathy for her. But in general, she wasn’t someone I found myself necessarily cheering for.
At the same time though, that didn’t take away from what I thought of the book. I loved reading about each campsite and all of the scenery and animals she encountered on her journey. I also wasn’t not cheering for her (in other words, I wanted her to survive and be successful because I’m not a terrible person), so I liked seeing her move from location to location to reach her goal.
This book was hard to put down because I loved her descriptions of the location and I was intrigued by what she was doing. Whether she sympathize with Cheryl or not, you cannot deny that she was doing something incredibly difficult. In fact, this made me what to challenge myself in some extreme way. Definitely NOT by hiking 1000+ miles alone (for one thing, I think it might have been a little different in 1995), but something that seems impossible to me. I don’t know what that is yet, but I’ll keep you posted.
This book also really made me want to go hiking, which I think is a testament to Strayed’s writing — she is struggling through her hike, but the way she writes about her experience is so beautiful that you can’t help but want to be a part of it in some way, even if it’s only through a day-long hike.
Memoirs are typically my favorite genre of books to read, but even if you aren’t a memoir fan, I still recommend this book. It was interesting, intriguing, and will probably make you want to do something challenging.