Book Review: 'Wild' by Cheryl Strayed

A road out of sorrow as published in the March 2012 issue of MORE

by Liz Welch
wild book image
Photograph: Peter Ardito

Cheryl Strayed was a novice hiker when she decided to embark on a solo trek along the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), a scenic footpath that zigzags over the Sierra Nevada and Cascade mountains for 2,650 miles between Mexico and Canada. Her poetic memoir Wild opens with the impetus for her journey: the sudden death of her 45-year-old mother just 49 days after being diagnosed with lung cancer. Despondent and disoriented in the wake of her loss, Strayed self-destructs. She cheats on, then leaves, her beloved husband, shoots heroin, has an abortion and adopts a new last name. “I looked [strayed] up in the dictionary and knew it was mine: to wander from the proper path, to be lost . . . to move about aimlessly in search of something.” Not sure what she is in search of, she sets off for the PCT with a guidebook, a collection of poems and an ice ax she doesn’t yet know how to use. During the harrowing three-month journey that ensues, she starts to make sense of her loss, writing, “The wanting [to have my mother back] was a wilderness and I had to find my own way out of the woods.” In this compelling chronicle, she does just that, meeting kindhearted fellow travelers along the way as well as two terrifying hunters, several rattlesnakes, a bull and, in the end, someone she can finally begin to admire: herself. 

Available March 20, 2011. Click here to buy

Next: 'The Vanishers' by Heidi Julavits

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First published in the March 2012 of MORE

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