Thursday, November 13, 2014

Book Review: Wild by Cheryl Strayed

“I knew that if I allowed fear to overtake me, my journey was doomed. Fear, to a great extent, is born of a story we tell ourselves, and so I chose to tell myself a different story from the one women are told. I decided I was safe. I was strong. I was brave. Nothing could vanquish me.” 
― Cheryl StrayedWild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail

Book Title: Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail
Author: Cheryl Strayed
Publication Date: 2007
Genres: Nonfiction (!!!!)
Goodreads Rating: 3.91 Stars 
My RatingStars
Recommended To: Anyone who is feeling lost; Anyone who loves the outdoors

A powerful, blazingly honest memoir: the story of an eleven-hundred-mile solo hike that broke down a young woman reeling from catastrophe—and built her back up again.

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: to hike the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to Washington State—and to do it alone. She had no experience as a long-distance hiker, and the trail was little more than “an idea, vague and outlandish and full of promise.” But it was a promise of piecing back together a life that had come undone. 

Strayed faces down rattlesnakes and black bears, intense heat and record snowfalls, and both the beauty and loneliness of the trail. Told with great suspense and style, sparkling with warmth and humor, Wild vividly captures the terrors and pleasures of one young woman forging ahead against all odds on a journey that maddened, strengthened, and ultimately healed her.

1. Y'all! I read nonfiction! And loved it! Ok, so there are very, very few nonfiction books that capture my attention. Even less of them that I read in two days. But this book... whew. I was hooked. You could tell this was a nonfiction memoir the whole time reading it, because the author's voice was so strong and clear.

2. Strayed's voice is RAW. This girl doesn't hold back. You will hear about her promiscuous love life, her deciding to cheat on her husband, her drug use.. She makes no apologies. She has regrets and she doesn't think she was on the right path, but she never says she wishes she didn't do it. I think I really connected to the idea that every bad thing she did lead to where she was then. Of course, she wrote this novel a whole 8 years AFTER her trek up the PCT, so there's a lot of introspection and forgiveness there. If she had written this memoir immediately after her trip, I think it would have sounded much different.

3. There are dissenters. I try to go into the book without expectations. Of course, I (being addicted to Goodreads) like to read the reviews of a book AFTER I read the novel. And these reviews surprised me. There were many reviews citing that they HATED this book because of Strayed's unapologetic, or even "dissmissive", tone when discussing her past transgressions. Many people criticized her for being silly enough to try to hike the PCT with so little experience, or they felt like she was looking for pity when complaining about her mother's death or her toenails falling off. I didn't see it like this at all. I connected with Strayed because, seriously, it made me feel like I could totally go hike a mountain. It wouldn't be easy (she never said it would be). But I felt like despite being ill prepared and lacking experience, I could do it because she did it. I connected with Strayed because I felt like she was on my level -- imperfect and searching. 

This memoir hit me at my core, and while there were a few improvements that could be made with her storytelling, overall, it was one of the best nonfiction books I've ever read.

"It had to do with how it felt to be in the wild. With what it was like to walk for miles with no reason other than to witness the accumulation of trees and meadows, mountains and deserts, streams and rocks, rivers and grasses, sunrises and sunsets. The experience was powerful and fundamental. It seemed to me that it had always felt like this to be a human in the wild, and as long as the wild existed it would always feel this way.” 

“The universe, I'd learned, was never, ever kidding. It would take whatever it wanted and it would never give it back.” 

"Don't surrender all your joy for an idea you used to have about yourself that isn't true anymore."

“There's no way to know what makes one thing happen and not another. What leads to what. What destroys what. What causes what to flourish or die or take another course.” 


  1. I prefer fiction over non-fiction too, but your review made this book sound like a good one to check out!

  2. I'm not much into non-fiction, either, but your review might have sold me!

  3. Great review! I read this book when it first came out and I really, really liked it. As a librarian, I read a ton, but this one stuck out in my memory. I loved her very real, unafraid voice. Can't wait to see the movie to compare ...

  4. And by the way, I'm sharing this across my social networks! Come visit me at!

  5. Thanks for this review. I've been looking for a good book to gift my mother-in-law during the holidays, and this might be it!

  6. It sounds like people were reviewing the author more than the book, in some cases!

  7. A friend just mentioned this title to me yesterday, in regards to a movie version, and I was intrigued! Adding to my must read list!

  8. Usually when I read non-fiction, it's a celebrity's memoir, usually a comedian, but this sounds fascinating! I can't imagine what I would have done if I had been in her position at just 22-years-old. That's crazy!

  9. Thanks for this review! I have wanted to hike a portion of the PCT since I was a little girl so this will be one I have to read for sure!

  10. I want to read this book so badly and after your review, I'm going to be sure to request a copy from our library. I don't normally read nonfiction but this book is just too good to pass up on.