I finished the first book of my 30’s!
I chose Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed because it was the first book in the Almost Fearless book club. Christine is one of my favorite travel bloggers so I signed up for Goodreads as soon as I heard she had a reading goal, too. This is not a book I would have picked up on my own, which is the fun part of a book club – who knows what gem you’ll be turned on to that you wouldn’t have read otherwise?
Wild is an autobiographical account of Strayed’s hike along the PCT when she was in her 20’s. She started the trek relatively unprepared and in the midst of emotional turmoil, having lost her mother to cancer and her husband to her own infidelities. It’s a redemption tale more that a hiking memoir.
This was not exactly a gem, but it wasn’t a bad read either. I have really mixed feelings about it – part of it made me roll my eyes, and some of it got bogged down in boring day-to-day details, but I could also sympathize with Strayed’s love for her mother and her desperate attempt to save her future self.
- Strayed describes emotion in honest and relatable detail. She’s very good at writing about how she feels. The parts about missing her mother resonated with me, and the part where she comes close to being raped made me feel a bit shaken.
- The friends and helping hands Strayed met along the way help restore some faith in humanity.
- It was a quick read – it took me only 6 nights – so if you don’t care for it, you won’t be reading it for long.
- Despite the descriptions of physical hardship, it made me really excited to hike the Camino in 2015.
- I felt like there were entire sections that were written to tell the reader how attractive Strayed was at the time. Almost every man is described as handsome and every handsome guy seems to have some sexual interest in her. Puke.
- She included personal details that didn’t move the story along, so it felt like a ‘What I Did This Summer’ essay at times.
- I didn’t get a feel for the scenery – she doesn’t describe the environment very well.
- There wasn’t much to tie the minutia of the story to a larger theme. She wraps up by saying what happened after the story ends (gets married, has kids, blah blah blah), but she doesn’t delve into how the walk changed her as a person. After all the “I was a screw up” stories, I was expecting an examination of her redemption.
- I thought long and hard about how gender politics influenced my opinion of this book and it’s author. Strayed admits to having sex with near-strangers and lusts after nearly every man she meets, which did bother me. But I don’t think it’s because the author was female – I see that kind of lust as predatory regardless of gender because it involves using a person you don’t care about to fill a need you don’t understand. That’s bad no matter who you are or what need you’re filling. It did get me thinking, though. I’d recommend checking out the book club’s thread for more on the gender politics of this novel.
Would I Recommend It? Not really. It wasn’t horrible, but I didn’t get anything out of it and the prose was mediocre.
What book is next? The February pick for the Almost Fearless book club is “Behind the Beautiful Forevers” by Katherine Boo, another book I’ve never heard of before. I’ve got a few days before February starts and a long car ride coming up, so I’ll probably read something else in the meantime – not sure what yet!