Good Reads summary:
At twenty-two, Cheryl Strayed thought she had lost everything. In the wake of her mother’s death, her family scattered and her own marriage was soon destroyed. Four years later, with nothing more to lose, she made the most impulsive decision of her life. With no experience or training, driven only by blind will, she would hike more than a thousand miles of the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to Washington State — and she would do it alone.Told with suspense and style, sparkling with warmth and humor, Wildpowerfully captures the terrors and pleasures of one young woman forging ahead against all odds on a journey that maddened, strengthened, and ultimately healed her.
This book is a story of a woman trying find herself. After her mother's death, breakdown of her marriage and sibling relationships, she decides it is time to go find herself by hiking the Pacific Crest Trail.
P. 31 Blood is thicker than water, my mother had always said when I was growing up, a sentiment I'd often disputed. But it turned out it didn't matter whether she was right or wrong. They both flowed out of my cupped palms.
It took me way longer to read this book than it should have. I kept having to put it down because Cheryl Strayed stressed me out!
I was disturbed by things this girl did and I worried about her....I had to take breaks but I also couldn't stop reading. I had to make sure she was going to be okay. From riding with hitch hikers to losing her boot and walking in duct tape to having no money to waking up to being covered in frogs to sex with strangers (although, there isn't as much of that as I originally worried) to losing her toenails. I reeled at the way she chose to make connections:
P. 269 Speaking of her mother: It felt like she was with me always, metaphorically at least. And in a way it was literal too. When we'd finally laid down that tombstone and spread her ashes into the dirt, I hadn't spread them all. I'd kept a few of the largest chunks in my hand. I'd stood for a long while, not ready to release theem to the earth. I didn't release them. I never would.
I put her burnt bones into my mouth and swallowed them whole.
The story starts off with her mother dying. I read that chapter as my mother was in the hospital getting a pacemaker. I had to take a break from reading because the idea of losing one's mother was a little too real in that moment.
Her stories of what life was like with her siblings seemed so (potentially) real to me. It was heartbreaking. Her mother dying fractured her family.
She talked about getting divorced from her husband even though she loved him. She respected him. He felt the same about her, it seems - but somehow their life fell apart. Her story seemed so real and so relatable. It is frightening how quickly life and marriage can unravel.
Cheryl Strayed has a great talent for evoking emotion. When I read about how fun her step dad was when they first met him, I smiled and laughed out loud. When I read about her having to put her mother's horse down I felt like I had to turn away. I was horrified.
There was great symbolism as well. The pack that she carries is way to heavy for her - symbolic, I think of how she carried emotions way too heavy for herself as well.
So much regret in this book. She remembers her mother, on her deathbed, bemoaning the fact that she was always responsible towards someone, whether it was as a daughter, wife or mother:
P. 273 "I never got to be in the drivers seat of my own life," she'd wept to me.....I've never just been me."
Cheryl, in the other hand, learns to be comfortable with and by herself. That was one great triumph of her experience:
...I liked him perhaps a thousand times.....For once I didn't ache for a companion. For once the phrase a woman with a hole in her heart didn't thunder in my head. That phrase, it didn't even live for me anymore.
Re: drugs and finding herself while on the trail p. 290 I'd finally come to understand that what it had. Been: a yearning for a way out, when actually what I had wanted was to find a way in. I was there now. Or close.
This is a great story. I totally recommend it, if you can hack the journey!
Warning: swearing is kind of commonplace in this book. While the author doesn't describe sex scenes in detail, there are a number of instances of casual sex