Wild by Cheryl Strayed: A Review

By Kat Kasel

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I read Cheryl Strayed’s Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail and was immediately overwhelmed by the urge to go for a long walk. And then chug a glass of cold, clean, ice water. And then eat a hamburger. Read it, and you’ll understand those cravings. Strayed’s Wild is a true page turner – although if I read it on my Kindle does that make it a real page-clicker? Page-tapper? Regardless, I couldn’t put it down and read well into the night for three consecutive evenings.

Wild is the gripping, true story of a young woman overcoming emotional turmoil while hiking solo along the Pacific Crest Trail from California through Oregon and on to Washington State. Though the premise is admittedly something of a tearjerker, Strayed’s story is captivating. I believe it was recently chosen as one of Oprah’s top picks, but I’m proud to say I read it before she popularized the book.

The Good

I couldn’t help but put myself in the author’s shoes as I tore my way through the memoir. Cheryl Strayed is just an ordinary woman leading a typical urban life, when the loss of her mother destroys her world. Her family scatters, her marriage unravels, and the author finds herself turning to men and drugs as a means of escape. Tired of her self-destructive ways, she decides to put her life on hold, turn her back on everything she knows, and become someone else. She decides she will hike.

When Strayed begins her journey on the trail, it seems unlikely that she will complete the ordeal. With zero hiking experience, no money, and seemingly little sanity, she embarks on her trip with a comically oversized backpack and blister-inducing shoes. Though the plot sticks closely to her experiences on the trail, there is never a dull moment. Strayed faces menacing wildlife, unpredictable weather, dehydration, exhaustion, and increasingly uncomfortable boots. The author details her inescapable hunger, camaraderie with other hikers, and the kindness of strangers.

Each chapter reads like the diary of a brave best friend who makes light of even the most dire situations. Cheryl is a great voice to have in your ear and my Kindle is better off for including Wild in its library.

The Bad

Some of the personal drama and emotional upheaval the author experiences makes the story a bit mushy and predictable. It certainly makes sense for readers to understand what triggers an impulsive thousand-mile hike, but this was my least favorite part of the story. I found Strayed’s intimate portrayal of her darkest days depressing and slightly self-serving. It seemed as if the author included these parts in the storyline as a continued catharsis for her, rather than for the reader’s benefit. Though her life is painful in the wake of her mother’s passing, Strayed is not the first person to experience the death of a loved one.

I found that I preferred her detailing the physical journey rather than the emotional one.

Why You Should Read This Book

Wild is a beautifully written, easy read. I’ve found that combination to be exceedingly rare these days. And there is a bit of something for everyone! The physical rigors of the hike, the touchingly personal quest, love, loss, discovery…what’s not to like?

Download a copy of Wild today to experience the tremendous beauty and solitude of the West Coast’s Pacific Crest Trail, without leaving the safety of your couch.

About Kat Kasel
Kat is a freelance writer and media associate for a digital marketing company in Washington, DC. She loves reading and writing but 'rithmatic? Not so much.

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