When Cheryl Strayed loses her young mother to lung cancer, her life veers into a downward spiral leading to the break up of her family, promiscuity and heroin addiction. Surveying the wreckage of her life at the age of 26, newly divorced, Strayed resolves to hike the Pacific Crest Trail, from California to Oregon. “I’d walk and think about my entire life. I’d find my strength again, far from everything that had made my life ridiculous.”
Strayed admits, the journey does not turn out as planned. Before she even begins the hike, hoisting her enormous backpack turns out to be nearly impossible, and her too-tight boots commence to destroy her feet. The money she has saved up from waitressing tips turns out to be just barely enough to sustain her.
Yet the journey also brings unexpected blessings, many involving the people – diverse, finely detailed and sometimes amusing – she meets on the trail. In the end, the journey does transform Strayed – and a central strength of Wild is that the reader viscerally experiences this transformation along with her. I appreciated her brutal honesty of her past and the trials of the trail.