At twenty-two, Cheryl Strayed thought she had lost everything. In the wake of her mothers 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. With no experience or training, driven only by blind will, she would hike more than a thousand miles of the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to Washington State—and she would do it alone. Told with suspense and style, sparkling with warmth and humor, Wild powerfully captures the terrors and pleasures of one young woman forging ahead against all odds on a journey that maddened, strengthened, and ultimately healed her.
In this conquering tale of self discovery Strayed pushes the boundaries of her sanity, her (emotional and physical) strength, and courage. Strayed constantly questions herself — to “continue on or turn back?”, and still consciously decides, through all her sufferings, to push herself onward. The story is about Cheryl Strayed’s journey, to find herself, and to come to terms with her life. She hopes that this 1,100 mile walk through the Pacific Coast Trail with help her find peace with her mothers death, her recent divorce, her broken family, and the bad choices she has made since.
Strayed embarks on a journey of self-discovery and self-realization in Wild, selecting for herself a new last name that embodies her wandering soul:
Stray /strā/ v. “to wander from the proper path, to deviate from the direct course, to be lost, to become wild, to go without a mother or father, to be without a home, to move about aimlessly in something, to diverge or digress.”
Still, Strayed never questions herself in the moment. When in the desert, with no water, as she is fading from dehydration and heat stroke, she never once worries about fainting. When deep in snow and unable to navigate herself onto the path, she never once worries about freezing. It is only in hindsight, once she has made it through the desert and down the snowy mountain, that she allows herself the luxury of thinking back to how close to death she had come. But when she is actually in her dire situation, she problem solves, finding dirty water to filter and drink, using her compass to walk along what she imagines must be the trail, never once imagining the worst. She shows strength of mind and does what she needs to do to survive, because there is no other option. She refuses to give up, she refuses to quit, and she refuses to let herself think of the worst. This is true strength.
The people she meets along her journey contribute to her growth as well, proving to her the goodness and kindness that permeates this world. For instance, early into her trek she meets a man who gives her a ride, a meal, a hot shower and a place to sleep in his home. She allows herself to be afraid of this man, yet he proves to her his intentions and kindness by offering her licorice and welcoming her into his home with no ulterior motives. She comes to discover the goodness is people throughout her entire journey, restoring her faith in humanity and her trust in others as well as in herself. Her fortitude in seeing through interactions such as these with complete strangers serves to prove to Strayed how strong she truly is, inside and out.
Fear is a powerful driving factor of the journey she consciously decides to take. Facing her fears, she teaches herself to survive, to “keep going”, indulging in fear at moments but never letting it get the best of her. Alone with herself in the wild, Strayed is able to identify her fears, admitting and embracing them, demonstrating tenacity and commitment in being able to recognize her weaknesses, overcome them, and ultimately grow from them. Her uncertainty along the trail parallels our own fear of the unknown as we simply go through our lives – we know not what will happen, only we know where we hope to get to. And on our hike there, to wherever ‘there’ may be, we must all unknowingly walk on. A powerful story of perseverance, Strayed inspires readers to be daring, curious, motivated.
The book is a ‘safe place’ for readers, providing a solace to those seeking validation and encouragement along their own personal journeys. We, each of us, sometimes feel lost along our own hike through life.
Strayed must lose herself along the PCT in order to (re)[de]find herself.
Cheryl Strayed is the author of the #1 New York Times bestselling memoir WILD, as well as the bestselling advice essay collection TINY BEAUTIFUL THINGS and the novel TORCH. Her books have been translated into more than thirty languages around the world. WILD was chosen by Oprah Winfrey as her first selection for Oprah’s Book Club 2.0. The movie adaptation of WILD was released in 2014. The film is directed by Jean-Marc Vallée, with a screenplay by Nick Hornby, and stars Reese Witherspoon as Cheryl and Laura Dern as Cheryl’s mother Bobbi. Both Dern and Witherspoon were nominated for Academy Awards for their performances in Wild. Strayeds essays have been published in The Best American Essays, the New York Times Magazine, the Washington Post Magazine, Vogue, Salon, The Sun, Tin House, Glamour, and other elsewhere. She’s also a regular columnist for the New York Time Book Review. Strayed is the co-host, along with Steve Almond, of the WBUR podcast Dear Sugar Radio, which originated with her popular Dear Sugar advice column on The Rumpus. Strayed holds an MFA in fiction writing from Syracuse University and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Minnesota. She lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband the filmmaker Brian Lindstrom and their two children.
Find out more about Wild and other books by Cheryl Strayed at http://www.cherylstrayed.com/