My goal for several years has been to read 50 books in one calendar year – 52 weeks – but I have always fallen off the rails around 25 books. This year, I’m twice as determined. I will be posting short reviews of each book with my thoughts and any recommendations I received for the book as well as a link to purchase the book from Amazon, (though I recommend checking your local library first). If you have questions, leave a comment! If you want to follow my journey, find me on Goodreads.
I really don’t know why I waited so long to read Wild. Though originally published in March of 2012, just before I graduated and embarked upon the wildest of journeys, I never got around to reading it. I acquired this copy from a local shop in Rome, Alan’s Books, which is where I do most of my used book business these days. When I saw it sitting on the shelf, I knew it was time.
Strayed chronicles her bout with grief over her mother’s death, shifting between childhood experiences, the time surrounding her mother’s diagnosis and death, and the grieved years just after her mother’s death all while taking one step at a time from southern California to Oregon on the Pacific Crest Trail.
This memoir resonated with me on several levels. First, Strayed’s account of initially packing her belongings into the external frame hiking backpack she picked up at REI, then trying to don the pack, finding it too heavy to lift, gave me flashbacks of my own experience packing my belongings into a hiking backpack on several occasions, but specifically in September of 2013 when I left everything behind for an eleven month adventure around the world. Girl, I RELATE. I could barely pick up my pack for those firs three months, but by the end of my journey, much like Strayed, I’d dropped most of the frivolous items along the way and couldn’t imagine why I’d thought to pack them in the first place. Who needs extra shoes?! There’s something religious about loosing your hold on material possessions. I wonder if Strayed still thinks in a “survival only” mode when it comes to owning anything – clothes, furniture, multiple pairs of shoes. Five years removed from my country-hopping and I still find myself feeling a little guilty for owning as many shoes as I do.
The second resounding aspect of Strayed’s novel revolves simply around the Pacific Crest Trail. I haven’t ever hiked it, but I did spend some time on the Appalachian Trail with my friend, Drew Burnett, who attempted a speed record (and did pretty well, honestly). Those few weeks living out of a camper, hiking in and out when we met him with food, and driving through state after state on the east coast did a thing to my heart. It proved to me that slowing down can happen in America, too. It’s possible to get away from the anxious burn in my chest caused by the chaos and speed of keeping up with everyone else. It was magical. There are views and experiences (like being a bear burrito in my hammock) that cannot be expressed in an image or a few words. They will live with me forever.
Finally, grief. I’m not sure of any harder experience in life than grief, whether grieving the death of a family member, the loss of a friendship, or the horrors our society experiences. Strayed recounts some interesting and sometimes extreme actions taken in her grief. While I’ve never swallowed ashes and bones (I was so shocked by this), I’m no stranger to extreme responses to grief. I appreciate Strayed’s vulnerability in documenting her experiences, though they have received some negative feedback. Her audacity to take on the Pacific Crest Trail, much more remote and grueling than the AT, on her own proves her strength and her resilience. This is a must read for the adventurers, feelers, and challengers among us. If you don’t quite fit one of those categories, Wild may help you understand these personalities.
Goodreads rating: 3.97/5
My rating: 4/5 stars
Days read: March 4-5