Febraury Online ebook Club wrap-up – Wild

I started reading this book expecting to hate it. Everyone I knew who had read it, hated it passionately. They found the author, Cheryl Strayed completely unlikeable and self-absorbed. While I didn’t love the book, I really didn’t hate it and I certainly didn’t hate the author.

Wild is Strayed’s memoir of her 3 month hike on the Pacific Crest Trail. She is an impulsive, self-destructive 26-year-old at the time. When her mother died 4 years previously, Strayed spiraled out of control, cheated on her perfectly nice husband, took drugs, neglected her education, became pregnant and got an abortion. Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail was intended to heal her. The only problem was, she had almost no hiking experience or knowledge. As a result she packed a bag that was half her body weight, physically struggled and was very under-prepared.

As an avid hiker and trail runner I found Strayed’s complete lack of preparation irritating but ultimately amusing. I think we’ve all probably tried something we were completely unprepared for and I get the sense that Strayed is mocking herself in her writing. While I couldn’t completely relate to Strayed as a person, I didn’t hate her for her self-destructive behaviour. While not all 20-something-year-olds will take drugs and cheat on perfectly good husbands, many, myself included will do very stupid things for no apparent reason. It’s part of growing up. I don’t think Strayed necessarily felt sorry for herself as I’ve read in some reviews. I think she very much recognised that she was hurting herself and those around her and did feel remorse for it. Another part of the book that I think I read differently were her encounters with men on the trail. Strayed has been accused of thinking that ‘every man adores her and wants to sleep with her’. I read it more as ‘I’m a woman hiking on my own and I need to be on my guard around men’. I think any woman who has ever traveled or hiked alone can identify with this.

In saying that, I do find her writing very repetitive. I think we’re reminded way too much of how sore and tired and hungry and ill-prepared she is. I would have liked to have heard a little more about the trail. Last year I read the book Tracks, the story of a woman walking with 4 camels and her dog across the Australian desert. I couldn’t help but compare the two books and I found Tracks to be far more engaging and interesting. In saying that the two women were very different in their personalities and motivations.

I’m interested to hear what other readers thought of the book. I’ve obviously read this very differently from other reviewers. What are your thoughts? Please let me know in the comments below.