Thursday, August 22, 2013

Wild by Cheryl Strayed

I am probably about a year late on reviewing this book since the Oprah fueled phenomenon of Wild has come and gone, but it is a book worth reading and noting.

At the age of twenty-two, Cheryl loses her mother to cancer and shortly thereafter falls into a life of recreational drug use, affairs which eventually destroy her marriage, and has an abortion. In 1995, in an attempt to find herself and process her loss and grief, Cheryl decides to journey 1,100 miles of the Pacific Coast Trail on her own.

 I began this book not knowing what to expect. I absolutely love reading memoirs, second only to my love of the classics. It fascinates me to learn how experiences in life shape our perspectives of ourselves and the world around us. Cheryl is a beautiful storyteller. She bares her wounds on the page with strength and fierce independence. So much independence that for me, it felt at times that even though she shared many intimate details with us, it lacked vulnerability.  Being the LOST fan that I am (geek alert), her writing style had me envisioning a LOST "flashback" episode. A song, a flower, a smell would spark memories, some heartbreaking and some joyful that take us into particular times of her life that helped to form her present self. While I like watching this on a LOST episode, it felt contrived in the book. It was a little too neat and compartmentalized.

I enjoyed Wild, but I never connected. It has taken me some time to process the "why."  Something did not sit quite right with me when I finished, and I was not sure what it was. I realize now that I wanted a fairy tale. I expected Cheryl to be "healed" by the end of this journey, as the back of the book promised me. I was looking for a conversion, an epiphany but I felt my heart sinking when mere chapters away from the end, Cheryl has casual sex with a stranger just as had been the pattern in her life pre-PCT. I wanted her to stop holding on to this idea of being "independent" and make a true connection with someone. I wanted her to notice the blessings on the trail of people, safety, water etc. as God's presence. I wanted her to give Him some of the burden from the weight of her pain. I wanted this book to be a neat and tidy beginning and end of a journey, but that is not real life.

I do think that this book is a beautiful beginning of a journey toward healing and self-discovery, but like in life, that does not come quickly or easily. If I look at this novel from that perspective, I like it much more.

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