Mike Kueber's Blog

November 19, 2012

Sunday Book Review #89 – Wild by Cheryl Strayed

Filed under: Book reviews — Mike Kueber @ 12:43 am
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It’s been a long time since I picked up a book that I couldn’t put down, but Wild by Cheryl Strayed qualifies.  This true story is about a troubled, young woman who hiked the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), which stretches from America’s border with Mexico to its border with Canada. 

Coincidentally, I just watched a movie titled Into the Wild, which is based on the true story about a troubled young man, Chris McCandless, who hiked the southwest before unwisely venturing unprepared into Alaska, where he met his tragic demise.  By contrast, Cheryl Strayed, who legally assumed her quirky last name when she got divorced a few weeks before starting her epic trek, grew up in outdoorsy Minnesota and thought she was thoroughly prepared to handle whatever the PCT threw at her.  Surprise, she wasn’t as prepared as she thought.

Another major difference between Into the Wild and Wild is that the movie papered over McCandless’s pre-trek troubles and never resolved them.  By contrast, the book continually returned to Strayed’s pre-trek troubles (including drugs and sex – she had a weakness for the former and a healthy enjoyment of the latter) and examined them in depth, and by the end of the book, you sense that she permanently left those troubles in her rearview mirror.

What I liked about Strayed was that she was a person who had done a lot of unsavory things, but she refused to be consumed by guilt.  Instead, she accepted what she had done while resolving to try to become a better person.  Her relationships with her mother, who died three years before the journey, and her first husband are remarkable.  And her ability to quickly connect with the few people she encountered on the journey was similar to that of McCandless in Into the Wild.

As interesting as Strayed’s physical journey was, I found her mental journey even more fascinating.





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