Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail

At twenty-two, Cheryl Strayed thought she had lost everything. In the wake of her mother’s death, her family scattered and her own marriage was soon destroyed. Four years later, with nothing more to lose, she made the most impulsive decision of her life. With no experience or training, driven only by blind will, she would hike more than a thousand miles of the Pacific Cres...

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Title:Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail
Author:Cheryl Strayed
Rating:
ISBN:0307592731
Edition Language:English
Format Type:Hardcover
Number of Pages:315 pages

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail Reviews

  • Meg
    Nov 02, 2011

    A few years ago I had occasion to re-read HATCHET, by Gary Paulsen. I did not do this on my own, but with a fourth-grade boy who was wholly entranced by it. I had never been a big HATCHET fan myself (I preferred the Little House books, if you wanted to get right down to it), but reading it with this kid gave me a new appreciation for what the book allowed us both to do: live in the terrifying wilderness, live in the terrifying aloneness, live in the brave and cold and the that which seems both i

    A few years ago I had occasion to re-read HATCHET, by Gary Paulsen. I did not do this on my own, but with a fourth-grade boy who was wholly entranced by it. I had never been a big HATCHET fan myself (I preferred the Little House books, if you wanted to get right down to it), but reading it with this kid gave me a new appreciation for what the book allowed us both to do: live in the terrifying wilderness, live in the terrifying aloneness, live in the brave and cold and the that which seems both impossible and necessary. To dig into the vast resources of human resourcefulness, knowing that no matter the outcome, you did exactly the best you could do.

    WILD is that, but for the grown-up me. It is brave and cold and terrifying and, above all, compassionate. A woman finding her way. Reading it I was pained for and with Cheryl, wincing at setbacks and feeling elated at successes. Rooting for her to get to the end of the trail as well as to the bottom of her grief. It's a lot of walking but somehow never repetitive, with stories of trail life wound around stories from her pre-PCT journeys. While sometimes I was frustrated to be pulled off the trail, these pre-trail stories were always rewarding. The story of Lady the horse was particularly moving and visceral; it set me on a good cleansing cry of my own, but! Hold on, wait. Don't think this is a sad book. It is not a sad book at all. It is maybe one of the few and only truly happy books that I have read.

    Everything painful is written about with warmth and something I just, I don't know if I have a good word for it? I have a couple not-good words. Reality. Actuality. Something. See, it's not: this awful thing happened, and I have written well about it, and I have settled the accounts and all is fine high-five. But rather: this thing happened, and it was hard, and that is what things are. Things are hard. They are not impossible and far away and only written about in memoirs where people do incredible things. The things that happened to Cheryl felt like things that have happened and will happened to me. They are present. Your water will sometimes be filthy and you will be able to fix it; your water has been filthy and you will be able to fix it; your water will sometimes be nonexistent and even then you will survive; your water has sometimes been nonexistent and even then you have survived.

    Because while I will probably never hike the PCT, because while I will probably not go through the things that Cheryl went through on her way to the PCT, I have had my own share of what I've had. And her chant, her present-tense chant on the trail (I am not afraid, I am not afraid) is the kind of chant any one of us might have, doing any one of the hundreds of things we must do to live our lives. That is what this book is about, to me. It's beautiful. I want to give it to people. Yes.

  • Amanda Hicks
    Mar 29, 2012

    I have read a great many criticisms of this book by people who either expected it to be solely about the PCT itself, or were offended by the author's use of coarse language and discussion of her sexual proclivities. And that's fine; all of those readers were obviously seeking something other than what this book had to provide. Myself, I enjoyed it from cover to cover. A longtime lover of the PCT, I already know about the trail from end to end. I was more interested in how the author used a rathe

    I have read a great many criticisms of this book by people who either expected it to be solely about the PCT itself, or were offended by the author's use of coarse language and discussion of her sexual proclivities. And that's fine; all of those readers were obviously seeking something other than what this book had to provide. Myself, I enjoyed it from cover to cover. A longtime lover of the PCT, I already know about the trail from end to end. I was more interested in how the author used a rather spontaneous journey along the trail to help herself face demons and come to grips with her mother's death. There are moments where her emotions are so clearly spelled out on the page, and then there are times where you have to read between the lines. But every step of the way you're alongside her, watching as she learns to accept, to embrace, to let go, and how the PCT weaves through that.

    This is a book I will most definitely read multiple times over the years. I almost regret buying it in Kindle format because I can think of at least five people I'd love to loan it to and demand they read it immediately.

  • Cathy
    Apr 06, 2012

    A self-absorbed, ill-prepared woman, 26 years old, leaves her husband (a decent guy) for no good reason, mucks her life up even further with drugs and reckless sex, then engages in some vacuous navel-gazing on the Pacific Crest Trail. As a woman hiking alone she gets all kinds of special treatment and help from fellow hikers. She loses a few pounds, gets some muscles and some sun-bleached hair and calls her work done.

  • Libbie Hawker (L.M. Ironside)
    Apr 17, 2012

    Okay. I gave myself plenty of time to cool off before writing this review, because man, was I ever

    at this book by the time I finished reading it. And I really wanted to love it! I'm a backpacker, and I've often fantas

    Okay. I gave myself plenty of time to cool off before writing this review, because man, was I ever

    at this book by the time I finished reading it. And I really wanted to love it! I'm a backpacker, and I've often fantasized about doing the PCT solo (a pretty stupid idea for anybody who's not much more experienced than I am.) I was excited about a memoir of one woman's experience on the trail. I dug into this book eagerly, but within a few chapters my enthusiasm began to deflate, and by the end I was basically doing this at every other paragraph:

    After some cooling-off time, I gave it what I feel is a very generous two stars. That bonus star is for the first couple of chapters, which do in fact pull a person in, and which do share some impressive openness on the author's part. I was particularly impressed with her ability to share her weird dreams about killing her mother, which were raw and real and touching and disturbing. Also, the scene where she recalls how

    was particularly affecting. Otherwise, this book just doesn't have all that much to offer. Cheryl Strayed's life doesn't, so far, have an unusual amount of sadness or tragedy or inspiring moments -- the kind of things that make for good memoir reading. Or if her life does contain those things, she's not a good enough writer to make the reader feel it.

    Brief rundown: Strayed lost a loving parent with whom she had a great relationship, and had a very difficult time accepting that loss. Not particularly different from the experiences of many people I've met. As a result of her grief, she lost all impulse control and sabotaged her marriage to a really wonderful man, then started using heroin. Okay, that's a little more interesting, but unfortunately the full impact of these momentous choices is lost in an unblazed forest of vague, unremarkable prose and confused chronology, making it hard to give a damn. At the nadir of her downward spiral, she hears about the PCT and just decides to hike it, which is not surprising, I guess, since she's proudly established that she suffers from a total lack of impulse control (a condition she never really seems to try to correct throughout the course of the book.)

    So hike it she does, all unprepared, derping off into the wilderness, as is par for the course, apparently. She can't even be assed to read the essential (and very short, I might add) book

    , an absolute essential for anybody who determines to walk off into the wilderness and survive by whatever she can carry on her back. Oh, she bothered to buy the book, but she neglected to read even a page of it on the flight from Minnesota or wherever she's from to southern California, although she brought it on board the plane intending to educate herself BEFORE she began her blissed-out hippie walkabout. But I guess, hey, free peanuts and a bad Adam Sandler movie, so....

    If you're getting the impression from the review that this memoir fails mostly because Strayed just doesn't make herself a very sympathetic character, you're getting the right idea. But it gets worse. Once she actually gets the high of hiking (under the weight of a pack HALF HER BODY WEIGHT, for god's sake) the book becomes Mary Sue Goes on a Nature Walk.

    Everybody -- yes, literally

    except the gay guy and a couple of women wants to have sex with her. She is that irresistible, all hairy and smelling like a sasquatch and hobbling from miles of carrying half her body weight. All the men she meets eye her appraisingly. Most of them hit on her and ask her out for dinner and drinks (wait...dinner and drinks on

    Yes, more on that later.) One of them actually does seduce her with the erotic power of his Wilco t-shirt. But the one message she clearly wants you to take away from her allegedly inspiring story of a complete personal transformation on the PCT is that

    Strayed's relentless hotness actually becomes such a prevalent theme that I began laughing out loud each time she described yet another man expressing his interest in her hot hiker self. I laughed a lot, O Reader. I laughed a lot.

    Don't worry; those people she met who didn't want to stick their trekking poles into her worshiped her for other reasons. Every single person she met except for some Totally Grumpy Old Camp Hosts and a couple creepy hunters (who still wanted to have sex with her) couldn't stop telling her how amazing and wonderful she was for hiking the PCT alone. Without any knowledge of how to survive in the wilderness. Everyone said things to reinforce her belief that she was a "badass motherfucking Amazonian queen." Hooray! The world is your oyster, 'cause that's all the world is!

    How did she meet so many people hiking one of the least-trammeled of the world-famous trails on the continent? Well, Strayed actually didn't hike all that much of the trail. She started well north of the Mexican border and had to take a Greyhound around most of the High Sierras, because it was socked in that year and she was unprepared for snow hiking, as she was for most other contingencies. (She got rid of her ice axe after crossing one small snowfield, figuring she wouldn't need it again, y'know, where the elevation got higher. Jesus Christ. Not that she really knew how to use an ice axe anyway.) Her intent was to do only the California stretch, not the entire trail, though she did extend the trip through Oregon after she found out about the impassability of the trail (another thing she should have checked on before she started walking.) So she motored through a good 400+ miles of her "hike," and left the trail for various reasons at various points to hitch-hike instead. Thus, she ended up with a lot of non-hiker people in a lot of non-hiking situations, making this more a memoir of disjointed hippie travel-by-any-means than a memoir of HIKING THE EFFING PCT, as all bookbuyers were led to believe.

    The parts of the book that actually DID take place on the Trail were interrupted by flashbacks to her life with her mother or the destruction of her marriage or her experimentation with heroin or the fallout from these events. So much so, as soon as she began actually talking about the Trail again, I knew to brace myself for yet another forced emotional flashback to the ordinary tragedy of Strayed's typical American life.

    Now, in spite of the choking Mary Sueism of the author's self-depiction, I could forgive her utter dumbness in wandering onto the PCT unprepared

    If her unpreparedness for the PCT taught her how to be a better person, more aware, more focused, more capable, more responsible, more honest about herself, GREAT. Bring on the stupidity. I like a good redemption tale. But it didn't. It didn't! If it did, those passages were lost in editing, or were never written at all. The book's big climax involves Strayed eating a peach in a grove of azaleas, and it's all very pretty and a deer walks into the clearing, and she realizes that

    But even that...

    I could forgive if the writing were good. I will forgive anything for gorgeous writing. My favorite book of all time is

    , and I can forgive the existence of a fictional character like Humbert Humbert because,

    , have you ever read Lolita? (Strayed has, at least once, and apparently learned nothing about the value of lovely writing.)

    But the writing in Wild is, if you will forgive the pun, pedestrian at best. I suppose it's serviceable enough for a general memoir of an American woman having a typical American experience of loss and confusion and coming to accept her past. But for describing nature? Ugh. I wasn't expecting "Annie Dillard hefts a Kelty" from this book, but one would think that a book which alleges to focus on the great transforming power wilderness would at least give a little time or effort to, you know,

    Miles and miles of trail are dismissed in the tritest and most cliche of short sentences, and as far as describing action, Strayed often resorts to such apprentice work as "we kissed and kissed and kissed"; "I walked and walked and walked"; "I cried and cried and cried." I yawned and yawned and yawned. I raged and raged and raged. The most vivid scene of actual trail action I can recall is where she falls asleep beside a muddy tarn and wakes to the feel of frogs hopping all over her body. The rest of the prose fell utterly flat, particularly in scenes involving nature. What a crashing disappointment. And what a rip-off, since readers are buying this book expecting to read about

    And there is virtually none of that here.

    It's no surprise to me that this book was selected for Oprah's Book Club (2.0, no less!) Oprah's selections have become, over the years, increasingly vapid and serving only the "rah-rah, you go girl" branding of the Club. I remember, long ago in a distant past, when she actually chose books that had good writing and fascinating characters. I should have been warned off by the fact that this book was picked, but I wanted

    to read a well-written memoir about the enchantment of backpacking, about the way the strife and the loneliness and the rawness of nature pull the packer into another realm of existence, where life is fragile and valuable, where the sky and the earth and the line of the trail itself live, and by turns cradle and sustain the hiker and try and reject her. Instead, I got "gee, my feet hurt."

    The great American memoir of the PCT still remains to be written. I'm sad that it's not already here, that I don't get to read it. I'm elated that maybe I'll yet have the chance to accomplish what this book didn't accomplish. Maybe I'll get a chance to write it. I'm already planning my own trip from Mexico to Canada. (Not solo, though. That's just dumb.) Who knows.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>

  • Nikiverse
    Jun 30, 2012

    I know what Cheryl felt like on the Pacific Crest Trail because I felt like that reading her book. Neverending. Arduous. But without that whole enlightenment part.

    [Warning: Spoilers] Wahhh, I did heroin and cheated on my husband and my life's a mess. Wahhh I'm too tired to even masturbate. Wah! I slept without protection and got an abortion! I lost my toenailz. I have godzilla skin on my hips because my backpack weighs so much! Had sex anywayz. B.T.DUBS I like sex!?!

    Seriously: she had this pro

    I know what Cheryl felt like on the Pacific Crest Trail because I felt like that reading her book. Neverending. Arduous. But without that whole enlightenment part.

    [Warning: Spoilers] Wahhh, I did heroin and cheated on my husband and my life's a mess. Wahhh I'm too tired to even masturbate. Wah! I slept without protection and got an abortion! I lost my toenailz. I have godzilla skin on my hips because my backpack weighs so much! Had sex anywayz. B.T.DUBS I like sex!?!

    Seriously: she had this problem with sleeping around with men and toward the end of her trek she's STILL sleeping with strangers. Her body made all these changes but she's STILL the same person on the inside!! So pardon me for not finding that inspirational.

    Her mom died and I feel super bad about that. But I couldnt really follow Cheryl on her journey because I just can't connect with a half ass femme-Nazi. It's fitting that she had a hard time reading a real compass because her moral compass was also off-kilter.

    Should have read about Bill Bryson's trek across the Appalachian Trail instead.

  • Jeanette
    Jul 03, 2012

    3.5 stars

    What kind of dimwit would decide to backpack the Pacific Crest Trail alone with zero backpacking experience? Apparently the same kind of dimwit who would try heroin just because the stranger she spent the night with happens to need a fix.

    If you can tolerate essence of dingbat and overlook her lousy choices and even lousier excuses for those choices, this is actually an enjoyable read. You have to roll your eyes a lot while working to the point where she hits the trail, but after that it

    3.5 stars

    What kind of dimwit would decide to backpack the Pacific Crest Trail alone with zero backpacking experience? Apparently the same kind of dimwit who would try heroin just because the stranger she spent the night with happens to need a fix.

    If you can tolerate essence of dingbat and overlook her lousy choices and even lousier excuses for those choices, this is actually an enjoyable read. You have to roll your eyes a lot while working to the point where she hits the trail, but after that it's quite engaging. I admire her tenacity in finishing what she started, given her cluelessness about backpacking that led to serious mistakes and potentially dangerous miscalculations. If you've never backpacked before, use this as a cautionary tale rather than an excuse to be a ditz. Many people with more backpacking savvy than Cheryl have lost their lives through poor planning or just bad luck.

    The thing that saves this book is that Cheryl writes well. If I can say without unkindness that there's a certain charm in her idiocy, this is what makes her story worth reading. And if you have any backpacking stories of your own, you'll connect with so many of the little things that define the worldwide community of backpackers.

  • Rachel
    Jul 09, 2012

    So far, a great read. It's Eat, Pray, Love without all the whining.

  • Jackie
    Sep 12, 2012

    I finished this book a couple of days ago, and have not been able to get it out of my mind. I was happily coming to Goodreads to give my glowing review, but was pretty annoyed at a few of the recent reviews, so I wanted to address that first. The bravery and honesty that flowed from those pages touched me deep into my soul, and to see her described as dimwitted and self absorbed is insulting to the author and to those of us who were moved by her story. If you want to read about a well planned tr

    I finished this book a couple of days ago, and have not been able to get it out of my mind. I was happily coming to Goodreads to give my glowing review, but was pretty annoyed at a few of the recent reviews, so I wanted to address that first. The bravery and honesty that flowed from those pages touched me deep into my soul, and to see her described as dimwitted and self absorbed is insulting to the author and to those of us who were moved by her story. If you want to read about a well planned trip by a prepared hiker who has no issues, go and buy a guide book about hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. I'm sure you'll find it very informative.

    'Wild' is a beautifully descriptive story about loss, pain, nearly giving up, and pushing on. I felt like I was right there next to Cheryl, my pack so heavy, my feet bleeding and sore, filthy, hungry and lonely. I couldn't believe she kept going, but also would have been crushed if she hadn't. I loved every moment of this book and am just blown away by the author's audacity and courage. I will probably never be able to go three months in the wild, but I sure loved living vicariously through Cheryl in her 'Wild.'

  • Nancy (NE)
    Dec 19, 2012

    In some reviews, Strayed has been criticized for a number of things. Unpreparedness for the Pacific Crest Trail, risky decisions and miscalculations, as well as reckless living - poor choices in coping with a broken life. Her real father was unstable, abusive and essentially absent. Her mother was quirky. She couldn't provide the basic material comforts of the middle class. On the other hand, her unconventional behaviors are exactly what gave Cheryl her independent, survivor spirit. Her mother d

    In some reviews, Strayed has been criticized for a number of things. Unpreparedness for the Pacific Crest Trail, risky decisions and miscalculations, as well as reckless living - poor choices in coping with a broken life. Her real father was unstable, abusive and essentially absent. Her mother was quirky. She couldn't provide the basic material comforts of the middle class. On the other hand, her unconventional behaviors are exactly what gave Cheryl her independent, survivor spirit. Her mother died in her mid-forties and the threads of what little family Cheryl had disintegrated. Married to a perfectly good man, but wed very young, in her grief, she eventually resorted to heroine abuse and promiscuity.

    I think those readers are missing the point. This is not a how-to book. Although there are some brief informative sections about the history and development of the PCT, as well as fleeting references to equipment. It is not a back to nature book. She writes picturesque but unsentimental descriptions. It is not a self-help book. She's not espousing any means to self discovery. It is a eloquent story of how one rather mixed up young woman used this journey. Alone, she is able to dig deep into her past and her fears. There comes a point in everyone's life when we have to forgive our own mistakes and accept how they define us. The struggles along the trail gave her the strength and clarity to face who she really is and what she is capable of. It resonated with me. After having taken a road trip in the mid 70's, from Minneapolis, to Whitehorse Yukon Territories, back through Edmonton, across the Rockies to Vancouver and down Route 1 to San Diego before going home. The experiences most definitely frame who I am.

  • Emily May
    Apr 07, 2016

    is easily one of the best memoirs I've ever read. For two main reasons.

    1) It is extremely well-written. This book doesn't have that feeling which non-fiction books often give me - a feeling that I'm stuck in the dreary real world and that I should have read some exciting fiction instead.

    . A novel about grief, and youth, and adventure. It's full of me

    is easily one of the best memoirs I've ever read. For two main reasons.

    1) It is extremely well-written. This book doesn't have that feeling which non-fiction books often give me - a feeling that I'm stuck in the dreary real world and that I should have read some exciting fiction instead.

    . A novel about grief, and youth, and adventure. It's full of memorable characters, drawn so vividly by the author. And it proves that true stories can be no less compelling than the most creative fantasy.

    2) Strayed captures the emotions of a young woman who has lost her anchor in life so very well. It's one thing to feel a certain way at times in your life, but it's another thing entirely to be able to find the words to accurately portray how that felt to others.

    . Perhaps it is made more poignant to me because I have a somewhat similar relationship with my mum and the thought of losing her is not only unbearable, but completely beyond my comprehension - how can I possibly exist in a world where she doesn't? She and her love are the single reliable constants I've had throughout my life.

    But beyond that, my mother - like Cheryl's - has made me and my siblings the centre of her entire life and purpose. She lives and breathes for us. She has made mistakes and we have had fights. Angry, raging fights that would easily have destroyed a weaker bond. And yet, I have never been more certain of anything than her unconditional love and her desire for my happiness.

    Strayed's shared emotions pulled out some deep ones of my own.

    Beyond the emotional pull of the novel, it is an adventure story that takes us through all the highs and lows of the wilderness. Interspersed with little anecdotes about the author's life before hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, it shows everything that Strayed faces in her struggle to sort her life out. Everything from bears, rattlesnakes and other people, to dehydration, destroyed feet and the realization that she had not planned her trip very well.

    Many times she considers giving up, and yet she pushes on. It's uplifting, and yet the messages avoid being heavy-handed because they are surrounded by so much story and adventure. An easy-to-read, enjoyable book, that is the perfect balance of sadness and hope.

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