Published by Atlantic Books Ltd on 2013-08-13
Genres: Biography & Autobiography, Hiking, Literary, Pacific (AK, CA, HI, OR, WA), Personal Memoirs, Sports & Recreation, Travel, United States, West
Source: Owned Audible Book
Selected to be read on Radio Four's Book of the Week. 'One of the best books I've read in the last five or ten years... Wild is angry, brave, sad, self-knowing, redemptive, raw, compelling, and brilliantly written, and I think it's destined to be loved by a lot of people, men and women, for a very long time.' --Nick Hornby.
At twenty-six, Cheryl Strayed thought she had lost everything. In the wake of her mother's rapid death from cancer, her family disbanded and her marriage crumbled. With nothing to lose, she made the most impulsive decision of her life: to walk eleven-hundred miles of the west coast of America - from the Mojave Desert, through California and Oregon, and into Washington state - and to do it alone. She had no experience of long-distance hiking and the journey was nothing more than a line on a map. But it held a promise - a promise of piecing together a life that lay in ruins at her feet. Strayed's account captures the agonies - both mental and physical - of her incredible journey; how it maddened and terrified her, and how, ultimately, it healed her. Wild is a brutal memoir of survival, grief and redemption: a searing portrayal of life at its lowest ebb and at its highest tide.
Our first read for January was a non-fiction novel, which helped me conquer my first real genre challenge of the year since I do not read a lot of non-fiction.
I quite liked parts of this book. I liked most of trail and hiking descriptions, it almost made me feel like I could take up hiking (so basically I was briefly rendered insane by this book).
But there were other parts I didn’t like at all. I never really connected with the author. The only thing I have in common with her is a loss of a parent at roughly the same age to cancer. The parts where she spoke of her mom were very moving- I could have read an entire book about her mom, because she sounds like a woman I’d like to know more about. But Cheryl herself? I would have been happy to have known less.
Despite it being a memoir there were parts that were a bit hard to believe- from the author’s ability to shake off heroin addiction like it was merely an addiction to nasal spray, the eating of her mothers ashes, the way she goes from completely broken to magically healed and happy with herself in the very last week of hiking, all of that rang false. I just didn’t personally like her. I felt awful for the people she’d hurt, especially Paul, and the way she dismissed him from her life once she realized that absence does not always make the heart grow fonder. I’m more interested in where Paul ended up in life than where the author did. I will say that Strayed is a very capable writer, because if it were based solely on her personal history and not on the wonderful life she brings to the world of hiking, I probably wouldn’t have been able to finish it.
What the book club thought:
Sarah: I was ready for this book to be over about halfway through. It was okay, but after a while it was just the same old “here’s what happened on the trail today” stuff. The beginning of the book was the most interesting for me. I continue to be flabbergasted about the way she packed (or didn’t pack really) for this months-long hike.
Katherine: What struck me as most amazing was how honest and nonchalant she spoke about controversial issues that affected her life. She spoke about access to abortions, domestic violence, sexual violence, drug abuse, safe sex, and more in such simple ways. This entire work screams post-feminism in its lack of discussion, for its simple acceptance.
Katie: Amazing! Best book I’ve read in a long time.
Sandy: I read this back in 2012 and again, now, for book club. I think I liked it even more this time. I really liked it, as I love travel adventure books. I think Cheryl made some unwise choices in some of her actions, but I think it was all part of the growing up she had to do. Another reason it spoke to me is because one of my own bucket list goals is to walk the Camino de Santiago de Compostela in Europe (Spain) when I’m 65! Watch the movie (on Netflix) called The Way, with Martin Sheen, to see what I’m talking about. I think I’d train first before attempting it, unlike Cheryl, however. Kudos to her for even trying this PCT journey, persevering, and succeeding! I recommend this book; it was a real page turner for me.
Lillie: I didn’t like this book or its author when I first started reading it, but the book grew on me and so did she. I do think that the saying “No matter where you go, there you are.” really applies here.
Amy: *I’m inserting myself into this one, as I got direct quotes from the other book club members on goodreads, so I won’t try to misquote her here* Amy ended up reading the majority of this book right before book club. Like all of us, she was surprised by how unprepared Strayed was at the beginning of her hike. Amy thought that Strayed’s portrayal of her grief process was realistic and ended up connecting emotionally with the book.
Kimberly: All in all not bad but it was hard to identify with Cheryl in any way because our life experiences were VASTLY different. However I enjoyed her time on the trail.
*Sarah and Kimberly were not at the actual book club discussion, but had reviewed the book on Goodreads.
After the discussion, which Amy kept us on track when the rest of us wondered off trail, we watched the Lizzie Borden movie on Lifetime and had a blast making fun of it and looking up the real story on Wikipedia and the net. I was pretty familiar with Lizzie’s story (hello, her legend is the stuff that makes up midnight girls like me!), but I had forgotten some details, so while the movie was wildly wrong in some parts (and what the hell was up with soundtrack?!) it also got some things right- including the drama of the trial. The book club has decided that we’re going to try to meet most Saturday nights to watch the Lifetime movie of the week, so I might turn that into a feature too.
Our February read was picked by the only man in our book club, Tim. He’s a brother from a different mother to my siblings and me, but he lives out 0f town so he rarely gets to make it down to discussion. The book Tim is having us read: Stardust by Neil Gaiman. It’ll be a re-read for me, but I’m looking forward to it. Plus we’re going to watch the movie after we discuss!