One of my favorite types of books are the kinds where our main character is on a journey. From Into the Wild to the aptly named The Road, there is something fascinating to me about people who are en route. I loved Into the Wild because of McCandless’s spirit; his eagerness to live off of the land and desire to turn his back on the evils of money and society really appealed to me. The Road gripped me because, well duh. In a post- Apocalyptic society where danger lurks at every turn, how can you not be enthralled? Plus, tragedy. I’m a sucker for tragedy.
Anyway. Wild. Cheryl Strayed (which, by the way, that’s not her real last name. Get it? Strayed? Ha.) is a woman in her 20s whose life is falling apart. Her mother has been diagnosed with cancer (and subsequently dies), her marriage is in shambles, she begins dabbling in heroin, and her family is curtailing it out of her life. One day while she is in line at a drugstore for a pregnancy test (because OOPS!), she sees a book about the Pacific Crest Trail and an idea is formed.
A lot of people who dislike Cheryl cite her carelessness as one of the reasons. She just sells off her shit and decides to hike hundreds of miles alone. That didn’t bother me so much. I think she has moxie and I can respect a move like that. Besides, it’s not like she’s a complete amateur. She has hiked before, just nothing on that large of a scale. Her whining for the entire first half of the book is part of what turned me off. Her feet hurt. She’s getting abrasions on her body where her backpack is rubbing her skin. It’s so hot. Her feet. She’s hungry. Feet. Feet. Feet. I can only imagine how hard it must have been. I believe her. But that doesn’t mean I necessarily want to read about it for half of a book.
The other half consisted of her running into hikers along the trail and envisioning sexy time. Cheryl packs condoms in her backpack and seems to be under the impression she will be having some good times out there in the wilderness. But part of Cheryl’s problem is the way she uses sex as a coping mechanism. So when she has a fling with some guy that she meets on her journey, I can’t help but feel disappointed. Girlfriend needs to learn restraint.
Her writing style tended to be uninspiring. There were a few moments scattered throughout the book that DID grip me, like her flashbacks with her mom and the gut-wrenching horse story (which is seared into my mind). Those stories were painful and raw and unforgettable. I wanted more of those and less of the monotony of walking/pain descriptors/daydreaming about sex with everyone she met.
I applaud Cheryl for her determination to finish. I don’t think I could do the same. But upon the conclusion, I just didn’t get the impression that she learned the lessons she set out to learn. That was disheartening. I was rooting for her. I was hoping to get something out of the book and I just don’t feel like I got what I was looking for.
PS: I think the movie was better than the book. *gasp*