I broke my own rule and watched the film before I read the book. I had heard a lot about Wild, particularly as I am a huge Reese Wetherspoon fan and Elizabeth Gilbert, writer of Eat Pray Love and all round wise owl, had mentioned Wild on social media. I bought the book and it was waiting to be read when Wild went on Netflix and I needed a good film to watch. I really enjoyed the film. It was gritty and dark, with plot twists, beautiful scenery and fantastic acting. Wanting more, I started reading the book the very next day.
Cheryl Strayed is very honest in this book. She opens up about the realities of loss, addiction and infidelity. For years after her mothers sudden death, Strayed went into a downward spiral, unable to cope in a world without her mother. A married Strayed slept with numerous men and allowed one of these men to introduce her to drugs, all in an effort to block out her own sense of loss. Then, in the midst on an unwanted pregnancy and facing an abortion, Strayed came across a leaflet for the PCT – the Pacific Crest Trail. The seed of an idea was planted and some time later, Strayed set out on a three month hike along the trail.
As a story this book is highly engaging, with warm and varied characters as well moments of terror in which I wondered if Strayed had somehow died AND written a book about her experiences. But aside from this, the book looks into the psychology of loss and self-harm, asking why in the face of loss some of us feel the need to punish ourselves. Strayed took drugs, slept with people she didn’t know and then decided to walk for three months with a huge backpack and little to no training. Even the walk that she describes as having saved her, was one long punishment.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book (although that doesn’t seem like the right way of describing it). I found Strayed to be honest, witty and insightful and I was enchanted by the PCT, a part of the world I had never even heard of. Life writing, travel writing, whatever you want to label this book, I found it to be one of the most inspiring and interesting reads I have come across in a long time.