Wednesday, May 22, 2013
Book Review: Wild
Author: Cheryl Strayed
Summary from Goodreads: A powerful, blazingly honest memoir: the story of an eleven-hundred-mile solo hike that broke down a young woman reeling from catastrophe—and built her back up again.
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.
My Thoughts: Firstly, this woman is an idiot. An utter moron who set out alone on a hike with a pathetically little amount of planning and foresight. I must, however, admire her tenacity for continuing and completing her trek despite her utter unpreparedness. I wish the book focused a little more on the actual trail itself instead of the memoir material of her motivation to go on the hike. This is probably because, despite how bad I know this sounds, is that I found myself horribly unsympathetic to her entire plight. Even when she's describing her mother's death there was something in the writing or tone that read as insincere to me. She then cheats on a man she supposedly loves, hooks up with a heroin addict, and basically becomes a general fuck-up before taking off on this rather hairbrained hiking plan. She gets a lot of help along the way though, some of which probably saved her life but it's hard to tell how much of that was because people on the PCT look out for one another or because she was a young pretty blonde woman on her own.
But anyway, apart from the above criticism I do understand the urge to do something like this. I would love to and having been trapped in this little dormroom for ages and seeing the forested hills beyond Oslo and knowing the mountains and fjords that lay beyond them makes me want to pack a bag and take off myself. But I would need to plan things out much more than her and I would feel the need to actually train for it (and not do heroin only a couple days before starting maybe). And one day I would love to follow the St. Olaf's pilgrimage trail from Oslo to Trondheim. It was when she talked about the journey, the hike, and the moments that make the entire struggle worthwhile that this book shone. It was the isolation, the physical remoteness, and fear that comes from being utterly alone in the wilderness that I knew and could relate to.
I really don't know why she felt the need to include the bit about the horse- that was horrifying.
Not a bad book by any means but I guess not what I was really expecting from a hiking memoir.