When I decided to read Wild by Cheryl Strayed I knew virtually nothing about her. This is the case with the majority of the works I read in the course of a year. Come across a book at the library, bookstore, or online; give it a perusal, read a review, decide it sounds interesting. Read. This is my process. There are a few authors where I keep my ears perked for their next works (David Sedaris, Nora Roberts, etc.) but generally I am not author based. So going in, I knew very little about Strayed, only what I had picked up from reviews on the Cannonball.
I am both thankful that I was able to experience Strayed’s authorial voice with little outside influence and slightly sad that I had not encountered it before. While she may be known to you as Sugar from The Rumpus to me she was just Cheryl, the woman telling me about this crazy thing she did to get back to being who she really was, at her core.
It’s difficult to be detached in reviewing this work. Strayed lays a lot out for the reader in this book, and having also lost a parent (in my case my dad when I was 20, in Strayed’s case she was 22 when her mom died) there’s a lot of emotional overlap. Strayed’s life flew more obviously out of control than my own – she experienced the complete disintegration of her family, divorce, school and career failures, and drug addiction to name a few. At 26 she was seized with the idea of hiking the Pacific Crest Trail (a sibling to the more well-known Appalachian Trail). Strayed was not a hiker, and certainly not a long distance hiker when the book The Pacific Crest Trail, Volume I: California caught her eye at REI, but she became obsessed and knew somewhere deep within her that this was the solution to her nearly complete loss of self.
Strayed takes the reader with her, Monster (her overloaded pack), and a lucky feather along the Pacific Coast Trail uncovering bits of what it means to be human along the way. Prepare to inspect your soul when you pick this one up, and you most certainly should. Be warned, Wild is not some overly feel-good uplifting memoir meant to make you feel good about yourself and the rest of humanity. This is about the breaking down of the physical-self in order to put the emotional-self back together.