by Cheryl Strayed

Overview:At twenty-two, Cheryl Strayed thought she had lost everything. In the wake of her motherís 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 Stateóand 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.

Judy Copek (12/22/14): My book club picked this book, and I have to confess that until I got about half-way through WILD, I did not like the narrator at all. Not only was she unprepared for her trek through the mountains, but she seemed like a sex addict and had also been into heroin big time, in other words she was a real mess.

I kept reading for my book club's sake, and soon she got my grudging admiration AND pity, and by the end of the book I was her fan. I began to suspect she confessed to being such a mess in the beginning to show how she had matured and changed and could now cope better with her life. In other words, she grew up. And she also had the perspective of time, as she didn't write the memoir until years after her hike.

So, with all this in mind, I would eat my former words and give the book a good rating and Cheryl thumbs up for having the guts to present herself in such a bad light in the beginning. She had plenty of courage in more ways than one.
Rating: ****

Gail Reid (07/31/14): When Cheryl Strayed is 22, her mother dies of cancer at 45. So devastating a loss is this to Cheryl, that she spends the next few years on a downward spiral of sex and drugs. What pulls her out is the idea that hiking the Pacific Coast Trail from California to Oregon by herself will give her the time to think, heal and accomplish something positive.

The next couple hundred pages are devoted to Cheryl's musings, the characters she meets on the trail, her adversities that usually stem from a lack of preparation, and the unexpected hardships of snow and heat.

Although this is a memoir and the hike took place in the nineties, what struck me as unbelievable is how lucky the writer was that nothin g horrible happened to her. A young woman in her early twenties may be likely to make some poor judgment calls, but Cheryl had good fortune looking over her for 90 days.

I found this book a chore to read. Others, especially hikers, will have more of an appreciation for the descriptions of the trail and her sheer determination to make it through.

I think that there are much better books along these lines like Into the Wild and A Walk in the Woods, so I don't really understand the fuss over this one. Soon to be a major motion picture!
Rating: **

Anne Ferber (01/22/13): Ms Strayed, has written a memoir around a life changing event that occurred at the tender age of 26. Her Mother had died after a brief bout with cancer when Ms Strayed was only 22, and left what she called a "girl with a hole in her heart" to face the challenges before her--challenges we call "life".

She enters a period of downward spiral including such self destructive behaviors as adultery, drugs, and self annihilation, leading to divorce and loneliness, clearly unable to recognize her own purpose. At the point she considers her "bottom", she comes upon a guide book for the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), an extremely difficult hiking trail running the crest of the mountain ranges from Mexico to Canada. Realizing that the only way to turn her life around is to take on a challenge that in her wildest dreams she would never expect to accomplish, she prepares to hike solo 1500 miles of the PCT from lower California to Portland, Oregon.

Fortunately for the rest of us, Ms Strayed is a fabulous writer, and the accounting of this formidable goal puts the reader, like a fly on her shoulder, right there, to suffer the agonies of pain and regret--loss of toenails, bruised and calloused body parts--as well as the joys of friendship and accomplishment.

I highly recommend this rollicking adventure, full of funny, sad, scary, illuminating, introspective and engrossing narratives, that encourage us to take on life's challenges in a new and thoughtful way.
Rating: *****

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