Friday, July 24, 2015

Wild

Wild, by Cheryl Strayed, © 2012, Vintage Books

Grief can lead people on extreme and complicated paths. People often question who they are, what their purpose is and how they should continue on when a loved one dies. That was the case for 22-year-old Cheryl Strayed when her mother died from cancer. Her relationship with her siblings, step-father and husband fell apart and she made life choices which seemed to mark her on a dark and downward spiralling path. Until she came across a guide book in a store one day on the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) and made the decision to spend three months hiking its arduous length. Those 1,100+ miles changed her, but the journey was far from easy.

Cheryl Strayed paints a picture of herself as a lost and destructive young woman, trying to hold a family together, while simultaneously making bad decision after dangerous choice. When she decides to hike the PCT, she does so on a whim and with minimal preparation. Her boots don't fit properly, she doesn't allot enough money for expenses, she over-packs her backpack to an almost insurmountable weight and sets off from the Mojave desert with her sights set on Oregon. Impetuous by nature, she stubbornly struggles on under the actual weight of her pack, but the larger weight of her emotional baggage is what almost hobbles her on more than one occasion. And that is what keeps the reader rapidly flipping pages through the 315-page book.

I know only too well the struggles to wade through grief and can understand how Strayed tried to banish her demons via this adventure. Loss is a powerful motivator and it can change the strongest of souls under its weight. Through her iron will and sometimes lack of other options, she struggled through the challenges of the trail and found a strength in herself which obviously still shines forth today. Her telling of this transformational journey comes in an easy-to-read package and reminds her readers that sometimes despite yourself, you can find your way back home to you.

We'll see what my fellow book club members think of this book in the fall, as it is on our list of books to read. 

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