Wild: from Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail is a memoir written by Cheryl Strayed that recounts her 1,100 mile hike and explains how her life had gotten her to that point. As Cheryl gets ready for her trip, takes her first steps on the trail, treks through desert and snow and reaches her destination, she thinks back on her life and sifts through what is a very traumatic past. A book where the main lesson is acceptance, Wild definitely challenged my perspectives on life and made me think through my approach.For me, it is hard to believe and grasp that there are people out there who have lives as traumatic as Cheryl’s. Since reading the book and watching the movie, I have also viewed an interview between Cheryl and Oprah about the book and the thing that I was reflecting on while watching the interview was how incredible it is that the story is actually the way that it happened. Often I watch movies and get bored with how much bad stuff happens to the unfortunate main character, and I think enough is enough. Towards the end of the book, I was thinking something similar in that I just wanted Cheryl’s journey to be over because enough is enough. From the interview, I have realized that life really is like that sometimes for some people where trauma after trauma can break a person and then help to build that person back up. Oprah asks Cheryl why she only sent herself $20 at each stop on the trail and her response, which seemed to be beyond Oprah’s understanding, was that $20 sent to a handful of posts along the trail was all that she could afford.
What I appreciated was that Strayed noted that she does pity herself and wish that she had grown up wealthier but has learned to accept and embrace her life with all of the trauma because she realizes that it has gotten her to where she is today.
While I did get bored towards the end of the story, I did appreciate the way that the story was set-up and the way in which Strayed’s thoughts and words were expressed. It’s clear to me that Strayed is a talented writer. She expertly wove the story of her past into the present of her journey, and she did it in a way that even though events from her past appeared out of order that this only strengthened her narrative. What impressed me the most about the movie is that it effectively portrayed this same weaving of memories without boring me like the book had done. Some of the events in the book were so devastating that it made me uncomfortable to read about them. The movie managed to make the same events just as bad without showing all of it. For example, the episode with her mother’s horse was a horrible drawn out experience in the book. The movie made the scene just as impressionable without me wanting to tear my eyes out.
From doing a little online research, I learned that Reese Witherspoon who plays Cheryl in the movie bought the movie rights to the book before it was even published. Reese is very well suited for the film and her performance was nominated for a Golden Globe and will probably also get recognized at the Academy Awards. Also, according to Oprah, this book moved her so much that she brought back her book club just because she wanted to discuss this book and share it with the world. I want to clarify that I am not really an Oprah fan. I never watched her show and I always felt like the books that she chose for her book club were a bit obvious. I am not sure that I would say that about this book, so perhaps now Oprah feels like she can be more particular with what she chooses. A final interesting fact that I learned was that Cheryl connected with a half-sister who she knew had existed but was never able to find until her book was published. Apparently and unbelievably, the half-sister stared reading Wild as it had been recommended by a friend and realized after reading the first couple of chapters that they shared the same father. What a cool thing to come out of the publication of a memoir.
I recommend this book to friends who I know are outdoorsy types and would appreciate reading about her journey on the Pacific Crest Trail. I also recommend this book to those whom I know don’t typically read memoirs or autobiographies but would appreciate the richness of Strayed’s story. I enjoyed very much the narrator’s tell-it-to-you-straight tone and discovered that it was the same narrator from Memoirs of a Geisha, which is another novel that I really enjoyed.