Visiting the Pacific north coast of America is on my bucket-list. Not exactly sure why… it might have started when I had to do an in-depth investigation on the Douglas fir at uni (I did a couple of forestry subjects as part of my hydrology studies). Anyway, it’s this bucket-list item that prompted me to read Cheryl Strayed’s Wild.
Actually, to be perfectly frank, I’d avoided Wild because I thought it was going to be all look-at-me-Eat-Pray-Love-Oprah-is-raving-about-it but when it popped up on an audio list I figured I could just listen to the Oregon bits and abandon the rest if Strayed was giving me the pip.
I was wrong.
Firstly, there’s not many Oregon bits. Although the main Oregon bit is about this place and it’s obviously spectacular.
Secondly, Wild is not really so much about hiking the Pacific Crest Trail as it is about grief. And sure, maybe there was a tiny bit of look-at-me in there but Strayed is frank, honest and I didn’t feel like she was garnering sympathy.
“The thing about hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, the thing that was so profound to me that summer, and also like most things, so very simple, was how few choices I had and how often I had to do the thing I least wanted to do. How there was no escape or denial. No numbing it down with a martini or covering it up with a roll in the hay.”
Thirdly, I expected Strayed would be more self-indulgent (again, the EPL factor) – the idea of a ‘journey’, both physical and emotional, is so cringey. And yet, it wasn’t*.
“Every part of my body hurt, except my heart.”
Lastly, I didn’t skip through any part of this book and didn’t even consider it for a moment. Strayed’s counter-narrative – the events surrounding the death of her mother – fit in around the details of sore feet, freeze-dried food and unexpected snow falls. As the seasons change on the Trail, so too does Strayed’s emotional state – sounds corny but it’s actually nicely balanced.
3.5/5 Yes, I’m going to watch the movie.
Cheryl is given an Hawaiian screwdriver – it’s heaven.
*Others disagree. I came across a blog that vehemently opposes everything Cheryl Stayed says, picking apart her memoir chapter by chapter. I’m not going to link to it because I figure someone who has gone to that much angry effort probably has a fair bit going on. If you’re desperate, google ‘I hate Cheryl Strayed’.