There are plenty of things that happen in life that make a person feel the urge to do something adventurous or even ‘wild’. Cheryl Strayed went through one of the most heart breaking things a young adult can endure, losing her mother to cancer, and it drove her to take one of the riskiest journeys of her life…
I can’t begin to comprehend the pain she went through during that time period, because I’ve not had to lose anyone so close to me before (and knock on wood, I won’t have to any time soon). However, I’ve had my fair share of pain, and I can relate in the sense that it makes you want to run away.
Cheryl started messing up her life. Royally. One by one, she cut off the relationships with the people that mattered the most to her. Her once close siblings became distant and she shut out her absolutely loyal husband by an infidelity and drug addiction. She was spiraling out of control.
One day, she had come across a Pacific Crest Trail book at the store. For some reason or another, it captured her attention, and she picked it up. When all of her life seemed to be crumbling apart, she decided to take on this challenge. I don’t think she necessarily saw it as a challenge, but rather, as a way to punish herself. There was some sort of self-deprecating hole she needed to fill. She was definitely angry at life for taking away her mother, angry for taking heroin, angry for making decisions that resulted in an abortion earlier on, but ultimately, I think she just felt abandoned by everyone.
Her journey on the PCT began with her arriving at a motel with a backpack full of way too much stuff that she ultimately could not actually carry. Everything was hard. I can imagine that it must have been the hardest thing she had ever done, considering she hadn’t ever tried hiking like this before. Inexperienced, broken, and ridiculously stubborn, she pressed on.
Along the trail, there were several camp sites with a post office or shop. She had prepared many packages to be sent out with some new supplies, money and clothes. She came across several other hikers, each one teaching her something about herself or the trail, in their own ways. For the most part, I think she was a bit surprised at how nice people were to her. There was an occasion where she was invited to stay with a husband and wife and eat a meal – complete strangers she had met on the trail. The other hikers became important to her too. Between teaching her how to use an ice ax, and how to really carry less, they helped her survive on the PCT.
There were also some dangerous situations, especially since she was a woman alone. I think this was one of the things constantly on my mind when I was reading this. Personally, I would have been more frightened of the men on the journey than of any animal. At one point, Cheryl became acutely aware that she was alone and female, when a man she had just met in the woods wouldn’t stop harassing her. Thankfully, she was extremely lucky, and managed to avoid any serious danger, but I think those close calls actually made her realize how risky she was being with herself.
Ultimately, Cheryl completed the PCT. It was probably the most difficult therapy she could have gone for, but it did help her move on with her life. She had to accept a life without mom, a life without her husband and a life without a single cent. However, the PCT taught her SO many things about surviving, her past, and ultimately, how to find and forgive herself.
I really enjoyed this book. I had originally seen it in movie form with Reese Witherspoon and loved it. I’ve been meaning to read this book for years now, because I love hiking and because I can appreciate a book about overcoming struggles. There were moments that made me cry and moments that made me laugh, which is something that I can’t say about every book. Wild was fairly easy to read, but it was rich with vocabulary and cultural anecdotes.
I’d give this a 5 out of 5 stars for how entertaining and heart-wrenching it was, and all of the life lessons!