Wild, By Cheryl Strayed

Wild, Cheryl Strayed

9/6/12 This is a required book for a publishing class. I avoided it when it came out, because I thought it would be boring and self-indulgent by the writer. Just 10% in and I am finding it a deeply moving piece. So far there have been only a few places that “drag” and a few passages that are too-long litanies of things — articles in the backpack, etc., but it is promising.

9/10/12 I didn’t want to be so fond of this book. Required reading always has some nose-wrinkling associated with it. I had avoided it as a Oprah pick. I was wrong. Cheryl’s story insinuates itself into my thoughts. I am really enjoying it.

p. 155-165  – The scene at the death of Lady had me crying out loud. I will have to process this. I just have the deepest feeling that this passage was written “for me.” Not about an animal, but an animal spirit, an animal desire to be, to live, to thrive, to soar. Watching Lady die woke something in me that has been asleep for a very long time. I am wondering if the book now builds in intensity after this turn.

Strayed, writing well after the events of this trip, has learned to tell her story in terms of what she receives and not what it costs her. I like that. I respect that. She tells us about her bad times, her bad decisions and her foolishness, but she expands on what she has received. Perhaps that is the result of her trip.

Will Strayed amp up the emotion wrenching now? Was the Lady memory a crossroads/turning point? I am curious and not a little hesitant. This was a brutally honest and clarifying scene.

I have noticed that she has omitted something very important. She tells us about what she feels physically, how wonderful food tastes and smells. She tells us about her physical longings for closeness of another human being, but she does not yet (p. 162) talk about the impact of her surroundings upon her inner self.  She reflects on the changes in her body, her fitness, etc., but not about the “other stuff.”

In my own experience, when I take a sabbatical day or lengthy journey, I have found that I FORGET to think about the things that sent me into solitude. I forget to ruminate about and plan solutions to my problems. I like noting that in Cheryl Strayed’s journey. I am waiting to read about her “transformation,” but I know it will not come on an ah-ha moment; instead it will be later, and maybe long after she leaves the trail.

9/11/12: I like the symbolism associated with the loss of things she carries — the boots, of course, the bracelet, her hesitations, etc. I keep waiting for something awful to happen, and I am praying it does not. The book needs no trauma or horror, as far as I am concerned. It is very good.

9/14/12   If I think of this book in thirds, the middle third was worth the whole thing. The beginning was too self-indulgent (for me), though it was meant to inform the basis for the trip, and the end was too abrupt, leaving too many small tendrils flapping loosely in the wind. From the time Strayed put her first foot on the PCT until the time when the bottle of Champagne arrived, she told a real, heartfelt story. Her inner monologues and her interactions with people on (and off) the trail felt authentic and meaningful. She made connections and had some gentle AHA moments. As a story teller, she was beautiful. The anecdotes from her past were nicely woven into the tale of her current journey.

She lost me with the ending. There were so many small things that stood out and wanted closure. What happened to her feet? What happened with her relationships that preceded the trip? How did she feel when she returned to Portland? What did “going home” mean to her? The ending had a feel of suspension, as if there will be a follow-up memoir or something, which sort of cheats the reader.

I appreciated the things she omitted and the things she did not share. I am so relieved there was no assault to report (or if there had been one, that Strayed would have had the class to omit it). While the book is about the journey on the PCT, she wants us to know that it was also an inner journey, a wake up or shake up.

I also appreciated that she did not hand us a line of bull that she was “born again,” or that all her bad inclinations went away or that she placed herself in a sainted position for her accomplishment. That made her real, and it humanized the concept of journey. It is as if she is saying “Look, I did this, I did that, and I walked the PCT, and it’s over and I’ve moved on.” I like that, but I would have liked more closure on some things the trail created.

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  1. Wild, Cheryl Strayed — I didn’t expect this — « thewryterreviews

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