Cheryl Strayed’s memoir of her solitary journey along 1,100 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail is not just a journal of a long-distance hike. Yes, it is a tale of surviving the elements, facing danger — from man, beast and nature — fighting fatigue, hunger, thirst and blisters, but that is almost secondary to the battles waging from within as she tries to understand the death of her mother, the dissolution of her marriage, the destruction of her family.
Still, Strayed’s storytelling in “Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail” does not resort to maudlin musings or sappy sentiments to hook her readers; she is honest in admitting her own shortcomings and less-than-stellar behavior. While she is angry and hurt, she does not blame others for her own failures. She does not pick and choose what to remember or share with us; instead, she airs all her dirty laundry (which, after miles and days without a shower, is literally quite a lot) and asks only that we accept her choices, whether we respect them or not.
Strayed is not the first person to have lost a parent, gotten a divorce or taken on a challenge, yet she writes with such skill that we do not dismiss her struggles as petty or common; her crisp language cuts to the heart of the matter (even in her own confusion). “I’d finally come to understand what it had been: a yearning for a way out, when actually what I had wanted to find was a way in.”
“Wild” certainly found its way into my head.
Jami Carpenter is a freelance editor for Stephens Press, host and executive producer of Vegas PBS Book Club talk show and co-author of “Education in the Neon Shadow.”