At twenty-six, Cheryl Strayed thought she had lost everything. In the wake of her mother’s rapid death from cancer, her family disbanded and her marriage crumbled. With nothing to lose, she made the most impulsive decision of her life: to walk eleven-hundred miles of the west coast of America and to do it alone. She had no experience of long-distance hiking and the journey was nothing more than a line on a map. But it held a promise – a promise of piecing together a life that lay shattered at her feet…
I think this was probably the perfect book to read at the end of my three-month world travels, and it was definitely very fitting that I finished it somewhere above the clouds as we soared home in a plane, tired – no, exhausted – broke, but happy.
Strayed’s journey of penance, absolution and self-discovery isn’t anything we haven’t heard before. It’s Eat, Pray, Love in the wild I guess, and there were certainly many similarities between Elizabeth Gilbert and Cheryl Strayed’s autobiographical novels: a tendency to focus obsessively on the self, a past of sadness and uncertainty, a decision perhaps found extreme by others to abandon normal life and do something fearless and hopeful.
I really enjoyed Wild. Sure there was a lot of repetition – I mean, how exciting can you make hiking hundreds of miles everyday? But I grew to love the journey, and the people that Strayed met along the way. And aside from realising that I never ever want to do the same, I think Strayed managed to inject the whole thing with a real sense of reality and levity. She doesn’t try to sugar-coat the details of her ordeal, nor does she shy away from the fact that she was woefully under-prepared for her trip and really very lucky, and brave, to complete it the way she did. In other words, I didn’t feel as if it was a fluffy ‘look how amazing I am, and how great I did in hiking the PCT and finding myself whilst do it’, as it so could have been. And I really like that.
An easy, satisfying read at the end of my own personal journey into the wild, and there’s something nice and closing about that.