Monday, April 23, 2012

Review: WIld by Cheryl Strayed

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed

Reviewed by Ingrid

Published: 2012

It's about: Cheryl Strayed is the voice behind advice column Dear Sugar at the Rumpus. She's become known for her honest, compassionate advice, perhaps because she has gone through some tough experiences of her own. After her mother died and her family slowly disintegrated, Strayed decided to leave what was left of her life in Minnesota behind and hike the Pacific Crest Trail

I thought: This book was everything Into the Wild wished it could be. Switch out the idealistic, naive young college dropout for a tough yet loveable young feminist, lose Jon Krakauer's weird tangents and slightly sentimental narrative, insert a bit of humor and some serious emotional depth, and you've got Wild, i.e. everything a memoir should be.

I liked that reading books such as Flannery O'Conner's stories, Adrienne Rich's poems, and Nabokav's Lolita along the trail was important to Strayed and somewhat integral to her journey, but she didn't make it all about the books. Nor was it all about the hiking, or the scenery, or even her emotional journey. It was all those things together in an organic and satisfying whole. Her story wasn't forced into some inauthentic kind of structure.

Lastly, I LOVED the fact that this was a story about a woman who set out to so a difficult and possibly dangerous thing on her own, and succeeded. I remember thinking when I was reading Into the Wild that a woman could never do the things Chris McCandless did - hitchhiking and sleeping outside and such - because it's just too dangerous. Well, a woman can, and she did, and she wrote this memoir. Awesome stuff.

Verdict: Stick it on the shelf.

Reading Recommendations: Like I said, this book is a great alternative to Into the Wild. In fact, I think I'd be willing to promise that if you liked Into the Wild, you'll love Wild even more.

Also, here's a video.

Warnings: Some swear words, one sex scene.

Favorite excerpts: "Sagebrush and a sprawl of hardy wildflowers blanketed the wide plain. As I walked, scratchy plants I couldn’t identify grazed my calves. Others I knew seemed to speak to me, saying their names to me in my mother’s voice. Names I didn’t realize I knew until they came so clearly into my mind: Queen Anne’s lace, Indian paintbrush, lupine— those same flowers grew in Minnesota, white and orange and purple. When we passed them as we drove, my mother would sometimes stop the car and pick a bouquet from what grew in the ditch."

"I'd read The Dream of a Common Language so often that I’d practically memorized it. In the previous few years, certain lines had become like incantations to me, words I’d chanted to myself through my sorrow and confusion. That book was a consolation, an old friend, and when I held it in my hands on my first night on the trail, I didn’t regret carrying it one iota— even though carrying it meant that I could do no more than hunch beneath its weight."

What I'm reading next: Finishing up Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset.