Sunday, August 26, 2018

Review: Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’ve wanted to read this for a few years. In fact, I started reading it once and thought I wasn’t interested. It turns out that this is the right time in my life to read this book. Before, when I started it, I wondered what hiking the PCT had to do with the death of Strayed’s mother. What I wouldn’t have truly understood until now is that this is a story of profound grief and loss. A young woman was unmoored and untethered when her mother died of cancer at the age of 21 and her siblings drifted apart. Without her mother to ground her, she buried her grief in rage and slowly began her downward spiral to self destruction. Without the shared grief of siblings and a father, she destroyed her marriage with casual sex, slipped onto the path of alcohol and hard drugs, and nowhere to safely grieve or begin healing.

Her reasoning for hiking the PCT alone were nebulous and poorly planned. She was ill prepared but she knew enough to start. She sold everything and bought only what she wore on her back (what she referred to as “monster”), and off she went on her 100 day excursion through 3 states, hiking through rain, snow, cold, heat, rocks, cliffs, meeting new characters, parting ways, meeting up again, and hiking, and hiking and hiking.

The real heart of the story is Strayed’s leaving all of her vices behind and discovering herself in relation to her grief and to her mom. It is so very raw and honest. I had to put it down a few times to process and cry. There are no empty platitudes. There is just a girl who is hiking, struggling physically, and with every step, going through stages of grief, learning, raging, growing, healing, crying, processing, and everything in between.

The reason I didn’t like the book two years ago when I began it is because it begins with her mother’s cancer diagnosis and the days leading up to her young death. I was already living that. I didn’t need to read about someone else’s experience. Except I was 37 when my 67 year old mother learned she had metastatic cancer. I can’t go back there. Even now. My mind still freezes in shock and helplessness. My mother died last September. She was 81 and I’m still too young to be without my mother. This is why this book worked this time around.

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