I never wanted to put Wild down. How could I actually, it was a required read after all. I normally don’t enjoy assigned books or reading, but I can truthfully say I would recommend Wild to anyone and everyone. In Wild, Cheryl Strayed gives the reader their own adventure by allowing them to step into her shoes. I was transfixed into all of the situations, wanting to know more and wanting to experience in my head what I would do in Strayed’s situations.
Growing up, I had nature and adventure flowing through my blood. I was an avid hiker and played in the mud in my family’s sixteen acre orchard since I was one year old. I’ve been fortunate enough to have the experience at twelve years old of backpacking in the High Sierras for four days at a time. Being a puny tween however, it was difficult to enjoy and appreciate the scenery when every mile I would throw a fit and cry because of problems that seemed to be going wrong in my eyes. Strayed’s detailed descriptions of flowers, trees, mountain sides, and the fear she had when running into native animals were so captivating that when I would be done reading and look around I’d think, “Hold on, I’m not in the right place. Where’s the charging bull?’ I’ll give it to her though being that I have hiked in similar areas as her, it’s much easier for me to visualize what she saw, so I speak for myself since other readers might have a difficult time. She gives an example when first starting out on the trail.
“In moments among my various agonies, I noticed the beauty that surrounded me, the wonder of things both small and large: the color of a desert flower that brushed against me on the trail or the grand sweep of the sky as the sun faded over mountains. I was in the midst of such a reverie when I skidded on pebbles and fell, landing on the hard trail face down with a force that took my breath away” (236).
The beauty of the landscapes are overwhelming and distracting but immediately prove to be dangerous if Strayed isn’t cautious. Even though the premise of Wild is her in the forest and hiking trails, there isn’t one chapter that doesn’t talk about her past, her family, and all the problems that occurred. There is flashback after flashback, each one piecing together a new part of her life that the audience has no clue of. Given that yes, most of the flash backs are rather useless and don’t completely apply to her hiking, they are interesting, entertaining, and a large part as to why it was so difficult to put the book down. Most of them made me think she could’ve lasted much longer in society and what she had to deal with was pretty bad. I’m glad she went on her hike. Her family issues couldn’t have been any easier for anyone, but her choices towards dealing with anything were often so poor and absent-minded it was hard to believe why she did whatever she thought would work. This leads back to why I couldn’t put the book back down; Strayed would, the majority of the time, get herself into a mess, ask herself why she’s doing it even though she knows it’s not a good decision, continue with what she’s doing, and then complain in the end why the situation didn’t end up perfectly. This cycle can be seen starting in a flashback from the beginning of her life and from then on to her adult life on the Pacific Coast Trail.
Strayed’s honesty played a key part in how she presented herself, her family, and the surroundings at any given time. Every thought she had and the actions she took were in no way censored. Her being straightforward of admitting all the horrible actions she’s taken allows the reader to be put in her boots, hike along the trail, and fight the world alongside Strayed. She includes a brief moment of toilet humor saying she, “was so weak with relief when I done that I almost toppled into the pile of my own hot dung” (227). By giving information that is part of an unfortunate yet comical situation, it creates a better sense that she’s a typical human being and has silly mishaps. Her truthful narratives are what intrigue me to continue reading since I know that by the way she started out, there’s only many more things that could go wrong. Her spending all her time isolated brings out a side in her that makes her question what she’s doing, not only on the trail but in life. It’s important for people to have these moments, maybe not as risky and do what Strayed does, but to reflect on what’s really important in life and what society encourages isn’t the best. While hiking she describes, “Trying to push ads for Double mint Gum and burger King out of my head” (300). This is disappointing to think that spending time in the outdoors still can’t block out the useless information modern culture engraves in us.
No matter how self-centered, disorganized, and unprepared Strayed comes across as throughout Wild, her intentions of facing her fears and overcoming obstacles are very clear. Even though she takes baby steps to make any change about the choices that are made, she seems to do it with great determination. Strayed connects many of her situations in the wild with her past, and whether it makes her angry or unhappy, she is creating encouragement for herself. Her journey is supposed to represent her finding a new path to a life where her past no long matters and she can continue living without regret. Through her confusion of how to get out of the many sticky situations the end result is articulated in angst and gratefulness when she over comes it. At the end of her journey however, what she wanted to overcome and defeat was indeed that, but not how she planned on it. She hoped for a journey of self-discovery and that in a flash, her problems would flash before her face and disappear. What she really experienced was a ride never allowing her to completely find herself but still change, become a lone-survivor, be shattered but also sheltered by the PCT.
Strayed’s gripping and suspenseful memoir transports the reader into her wild ride along the Pacific Coast Trail. Each sentence and paragraph exults energy, similar to what her hike and life needed when she was distraught and overwhelmed. The trial and error of each day tore her down emotionally and physically, more relentless with the passing hours. Her candid and inspirational narrative makes it difficult for me not to root for her, regardless of her tendencies to go off course.
- Strayed, Cheryl. Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail. 1st ed. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2012.