Sunday, May 6, 2012
Published by: Knopf
Publication Date: March 20th, 2012
Format: Hardcover, 315 Pages
Cheryl Strayed had a tough yet somewhat idyllic upbringing in Minnesota. Her two siblings and her and their mom and her stepfather and a little plot of land to call their own in the far north. In Cheryl's final semester of school her mother got Cancer and died. Cheryl's life spun wildly out of control. She not only lost her mother, but her connection to her siblings, her step-father and finally her husband divorced her. A combination of grief, promiscuity and drugs will do that. Cheryl latched onto this idea of hiking the Pacific Crest Trail through California to Oregon as some sort of penance. Once she did this her life would be ready to get on track. She could maybe finish college, kick heroin, leave behind the countless men and the abortion she had and start anew. The PCT was going to be her salvation. A hard trek over dangerous terrain, where bears, foxes, wolves and snow would all be encountered. She thought she was ready for it, but the trail challenged her in ways she didn't expect.
Firstly she packed way too much, her backpack being affectionately called monster. Her shoes where to small and she wasn't keeping the pace she had expected too. Soon she had to result to detours to avoid all the areas of the Trail that where snowed in. She went through many hardships of not having enough money on her detours, having not expected to encounter them. But on the trail and at the rest stops, she became friends with other hikers in the close knit community of the PCT. All the while, as her feet marked mile after mile, she thought about all that had happened to get her here. The husband she let go, her mother's horse that she had to put down, how she was headed nowhere but the next mile and the next mile. Yet all would be worth it once she reached the Bridge of the Gods and her journey was over, minus most of her toenails.
I am not a non-fiction reader. If I read non-fiction it has most likely been for school or because it was some funny celebrity memoir. This wasn't either. This was a book club pick, thankfully picked before Oprah, I will not go into this now, but me and Oprah, we have issues. Wild was interesting in that I hate Cheryl, I really truly hate her, yet I was compelled to keep reading. She is not a nice person, at least that's what I feel like having read the book, and, I'm sorry, but if you're not likable in your autobiography, then you're probably not likable. She has too many self esteem issues. Not only is she promiscuous, be she truly believes that every man she encounters wants her. So much of her journey seems to be getting herself away from the world of temptation, that when she does hook up at what was originally going to be her final destination, the "romance" of the moment is lost in the, "you dumb bitch, not again" that was coming from my mouth. Also, as to her heroin addiction... um, heroin isn't that easy to kick. I'm injecting today, tomorrow I'll be on the trail and not feel any signs of withdrawal. Ok Cheryl, sure.
Also, this is a book about her hike around these beautiful panoramas and vistas, a journey where she clearly states she has a camera... why are there no pictures? Not a one! Is it because all the men reading it would want her? Now just to start piling on the things that pissed me off, I should mention that there where people in my book club who hated her so much they didn't bother to finish the book. Let's start with Cheryl's last name. When I read that her last name was "Strayed" I was like, that has got to be some lame pretentious made up name... yes and no. She made it up, but it's legally hers. What kind of writer is so pretentious as to pick strayed as their name? Gah, just, gah. Then, why this book now? I mean, this happened when I was in high school. The whole book felt dated. The references to OJ Simpson and Jerry Garcia... did you really need money so bad that you finally wrote this book? Also, her upbringing I think made it easier to adjust to trail life, she didn't have running water for years in Minnesota, so she doesn't really cover her upbringing as being trail compatible. The ending felt rushed. I mean, total in depth detail all the way to the Oregon border and then Oregon was over, woosh.
Yet none of this, not one single thing made me hate the book as to what she did with some of her mothers ashes, even the toenails didn't do it. She found a nice big bone chip and ate it! That's right, she ate her mother. This wasn't a metaphor, this was gross reality. All I kept thinking was that her thinking of "now my mother will always be with me" was so flawed, because, now, you are going to shit out your mother. Some of your mother will be down a pipe somewhere after you fucked someone or shot up, and your mother will be there. I was so revolted that if I hadn't decided I hated her already, this would have pushed me over the edge, it brought the book down a full star as it stands. Just icky! This whole book could have been better served as a series of short stories where her mother eating tendencies where left out.