REVIEW: Wild by Cheryl Strayed
For those who love the outdoors and have dreamt of a long distance thru-hike to test your endurance, WILD will reignite that dream.
Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail
by Cheryl Strayed
Category: Memoir, Non-Fiction, Movie
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf: Borzoi Books (March 2012)
Rated 5 out of 5
eBook pulled from the TBR Mountain Range, purchased by me.
Formats: eBook read, Print/audio also available, Movie in theaters now.
This is a review of the book and the movie WILD. I highly suggest you experience this journey by reading it first, then visualizing it on the big screen for the full effect. I don’t think I would have enjoyed it as much without doing both back to back. The book gives details that the movie can’t, but the movie shows more emotion than the book does in some ways, so they’re a good combination.
At twenty-six, Cheryl Strayed is lost in a world full of change, some of her own making, but a big part of her disappointment in her life begins with the death of her mother. Just divorced, having had numerous relationships out of need rather than thought, Cheryl decides to give up her current life and go find herself on the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) by hiking 1100 miles of it alone.
After months of planning, Cheryl quits her job and sets out on her exciting journey to hike the PCT, an over 2600 mile trail on the west coast of North America that runs from Mexico through the United States to Canada. WILD isn’t just about the trail and the people Cheryl meets over 94 days while trekking 1100 miles of it, it’s also about accepting your faults and moving forward by challenging yourself with an immense physical test. It is one woman’s journey by herself when no one thinks it can be done. Solitude is welcome to Cheryl and it is how she heals.
I purchased the eBook so I could experience the words before seeing the movie. I feel that the movie can be enjoyed without reading the book, but you’ll have a deeper understanding of Cheryl’s sacrifice and accomplishment by reading about it first. As a booklover, you’ll also get some future reading suggestions inspired by some of Cheryl’s favorites.
I’ve always dreamt of doing a long distance thru-hike so this memoir appealed to me from the beginning, especially since it was about a woman hiking the PCT alone. I’m not familiar with that trail but I could imagine the difficulties even before reading about it. What I didn’t expect was the depth of Cheryl’s pain and how it would affect me. Her strength and bravery is especially inspiring, but it’s the baring of her soul that speaks to those of us who have experienced great loss, made mistakes while trying to heal, and recovered from it in our own way. Hiking the PCT is miraculous enough, but for a woman to do it alone is especially bold. That alone speaks to her desperation and sense of self at a time when she needed more than what she had emotionally.
What I liked best about Cheryl’s story is that she isn’t an experienced hiker, so her accomplishment seems greater, considering that she wasn’t physically prepared for it. She researched her equipment and some of her childhood experiences prepared her for survival in many ways, but to go after this goal without a trial run, or without any experience hiking snow covered trails, or using a compass, made me fear for her safety several times. I never thought about how lost a hiker can become in a sea of snow before, and Cheryl Strayed’s journey reminds me how much many of us take for granted.
The biggest compliment I can give the book is that I didn’t want it to end. I wanted Cheryl to hike further, tell me more, and witness others doing the same. I immediately searched for other books like this and hopefully will find some gems.
In the movie, Reese Witherspoon did an excellent job of portraying Cheryl. I wasn’t so sure if I’d find Reese believable because she doesn’t seem tough enough from the roles I’ve seen her play in the past, but she sold me by the middle of the movie. There were many small parts in the book brought to life in the movie which I didn’t expect, and the movie was kept parallel to the book, in such a way that it was like the book coming to life for me. Of course, the scenery was beautiful and was a big reason I wanted to see the movie. So much so, I think I’ll see it again at the theater before it stops playing.
The book brought tears to my eyes but the movie made me seriously cry. By finishing the book the same day I saw the movie, I believe it made me connect more emotionally to the experience. The parts in the movie looking back at her life with her mother are precious and heart-breaking. Also, Cheryl Strayed is sometimes brutally honest and cringe-worthy when she accepts the past that shapes her, but I admire her gut-wrenching testimony. I recommend the book and movie to anyone who loves a great outdoor adventure that’s not perfect in preparation, knowledge or execution, but speaks honestly from the heart.
WILD is a memoir quest that proposes the question—what are you willing to do to change your life?
Reviewed by Dorine, courtesy of TBR Mountain Range.
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