Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, by Cheryl Strayed (2012)

Genre: Nonfiction
Interest Level: Adult
WildHikers will immediately get the appeal of the Pacific Crest Trail – nearly 4300 kms of walking in the mountains and high deserts of the west. One foot in front of the other, mile after mile, day after day. It’s what I love about hiking – it’s simple, and it leaves your mind free to wander, to take in the sights, to think about the problems of the world, whatever. It’s also what is the hardest thing about backpacking. It’s hard work. The story begins when Cheryl’s mother dies at age 45 (!!), when Cheryl is just 22. She tries to keep it together, but it was so sudden, just weeks after the cancer diagnosis, that the family literally disintegrates, and so does Cheryl. Her marriage crumbles as she engages in what can only be called destructive behaviour, she finishes university just one paper shy of getting the degree, but with a crippling set of student loans. On what can only be described as a desperate bid for self-preservation, she decides to hike 1100 miles of the PCT. She prepares for months – well, sort of. She buys a lot of stuff, organizes her stops and supply pickups, packs her things and puts them in storage. But the night before her hike starts, she still hasn’t tested the backpack. Hasn’t packed it, even. This is a truly awe-inspiring story, and not always in a good way. This is a woman with an astonishing amount of grit and determination, and an equally amazing bent for self-destruction. The memoir shifts back and forth in time, and that saves us. Had she begun at age 22 and delivered her tale chronologically, I think I would have given up on her. As it is, she reveals her past slowly, carefully, as one would to a lover, wanting to be honest but not too much too quickly, not so honest as to drive him or her away … Cheryl Strayed (it’s pronounced as it sounds, too, and there’s a story behind that) did the hike in 1995, but her writing is intensely detailed, so it feels as though it were last summer. It’s a moving and riveting portrayal, laced with adventure as she faces fear, blisters, black bears and more. I would have loved to have seen a few photos, or maybe more of an update. What DO those feel look like today?

More discussion and reviews of this book: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/12262741-wild

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About Michelle Mallette
I'm just trying to keep track of the books I've read - what I liked and what isn't worth re-reading. My work as a librarian has included youth services so you'll find a wide range of interests from picture books and teen dystopia to adult sci-fi, road trip novels, and nonfiction. Comments and communication is always welcome.

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