Wild, Cheryl Strayed, Alfred A Knopf, 2012, 311 pp
I am wild about this book! Memoir, a travel book of the extreme-adventure type, and a portrait of a certain kind of late 20th century woman. What a combination.
Unmoored by grief over her mother's death, Cheryl was a 22 year old girl gone wild. Sex and drugs and waiting tables. I always got waitress jobs in my wild days--easy to get, easier to quit--but I was not as crazy as Cheryl. On a whim, she decided to hike the Pacific Crest Trail. By herself.
She planned and planned. She saved money, she shopped, she organized, but in the end she was a babe in the woods. Pack too heavy, boots too tight, money too scarce. She did it anyway. She got tough and strong, convincing herself everyday that she was not afraid and would not give up.
I find it interesting that she waited almost twenty years to write and publish the story of her hike. First she wrote an autobiographical novel, then a collection of advice essays, finally the memoir. I like to think that she had to live another chunk of years in order to prove to herself that she truly did transform her life.
Her writing is a mix of swagger, honesty, and suspense. She can also do self-deprecating humor but this is a completely different story from Bill Bryson's A Walk in the Woods.
What I liked most was this: Females are often told to be careful and aware of danger, to stay safe. Cheryl Strayed's book makes the case for a female who can be reckless and wild but still survive, still create a career, a family, and a life that works. She tells us we can learn from hardship, danger, and loss.
(Wild is currently available in paperback on the shelves or in hardcover and eBook by order from Once Upon A Time Bookstore.)