Last week, I dropped my van off at the shop for repairs. The shop is located a mostly flat half mile or so from my house so I decided to walk home rather than having someone pick me up. Me walking is an event so notable and unusual that several people stopped along the street and asked me if I needed a ride. Surely my van had broken down or I was suffering some sort of mental or emotional breakdown. Please understand, this is exactly what I would've thought if I'd seen me walking along the street.
I am significantly overweight. This is an inescapable fact of my daily existence--one which I forget rarely and always at my peril. For whatever reason, I do not equate my size with my fitness (or lack thereof); I routinely underestimate exactly how unfit I am. My walk that morning was a great reminder--creaking joints, easily fatigued muscles, flushed face despite the almost chilly temperature.
I bring all of this up not in an attempt to flaunt my humiliation, but so that you can fully appreciate how absurd it is that as I was reading Wild, Cheryl Strayed's tale of her journey on the Pacific Crest Trail, I could clearly imagine myself hiking right alongside her for all eleven hundred mountainous, sometimes treacherous, miles. This utterly absurd image of some version of myself hiking the Pacific Crest Trail is a testament not only to my own deluded imagination, but to the skill Strayed brings to the page.
In the mid-Nineties, when she was 26, Cheryl Strayed took to the Pacific Crest Trail after several years of devastating personal setbacks--the unexpected death of her mother; the dissolution of her marriage to a man she loved dearly, but could not stay with; a series of increasingly dangerous misjudgments on her part. She hoped that the solitude of the trail would give her time to figure some things out--about herself, about the world, about the direction she wanted to move in for her future.
In Wild, we cover both external and internal territory beside Strayed. From memories of her mother's last days to the sweeping vistas spread before her on the trail's peaks to the wrenchingly honest assessments of her own sexual promiscuity and the causes behind it to a snow and ice covered mountain trail on which a slip in the wrong direction could spell certain death, we travel alongside a woman on a suspenseful, life-changing journey. We do so in the hands of a writer with a tremendous talent for straightforward but deeply evocative prose.
I have rhapsodized about Strayed's work before--at least the portion of her work she's done under the pseudonym "Dear Sugar" on The Rumpus. Shortly after my ode to "Dear Sugar" ran, Strayed revealed her identity, in anticipation of the release of this book. If you read my "Dear Sugar" review, it comes as no surprise that Wild was on my To-Read List long before Oprah announced it as the first pick in her re-booted Book Club. I have mixed feelings about Oprah herself, as well as her Book Club--a discussion for another time, perhaps--but I am thrilled that Strayed's book will garner much-deserved attention.
Masked Mom's One-Word Review: Inspirational.
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