By Audrey Andrews | November 2nd, 2020
Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed is one of the few books I’ve read twice. Although published in 2012, the book has already become a classic in both memoirs and outdoor literature. Wild permeated book lists so extensively that I thought it may be redundant or too obvious to include on Tilia americana. I recently picked up Wild a second time to foster inspiration and thought in regards to recent life changes I’ve made. After finishing the memoir, I knew it I must write about it.
Wild is about the journey Strayed finds herself on after her mother’s death. Strayed decides to hike some of the Pacific Crest Trail, a 2,650-mile route from Mexico to Canada via Washington, Oregon and California. The book is wildly successful and Strayed was depicted by Reese Witherspoon in the movie Wild in 2014.
There are a number of aspects which make this book incredibly powerful. First, Strayed is a wonderful writer. Her talent lies in conveying emotion. While she adequately describes the awe-inspiring views encountered along the Pacific Crest Trail, the diction she harnesses to emit emotions is simply superb. Repeatedly, her descriptions of heart and mind stun.
Second, Strayed did not hike the entire Pacific Crest Trail. This fact reinforces that she writes not of outward successes, but inward contentment. Hikers often forget that completing an entire route does not necessarily accomplish anything. Strayed also changes her route along the way. Detours and adjustments do not alter her inward path, reminding readers that change and outward accomplishments do not enhance the journey.
Third, this memoir is about hiking. As a woman. Alone. Irrationally, hiking as a woman alone remains largely culturally forbidden throughout the United States. Over twenty years after Strayed hiked the Pacific Crest Trail, men still ask me the same questions when I’m out and about solo: “Are you alone?” “Aren’t you afraid?” “Are you okay?” “Do you need help?” By publishing Wild, Strayed shows us that women were doing this alone more than twenty years ago. Obviously, women have done things alone for time immemorial, though doubters think we belong indoors or accompanied. Wild‘s success stares down sexists, and perhaps changed the mind of a few.
The conclusion of Wild leaves readers gutted. Strayed’s words speak to the core of herself, her hike and her life. She writes not of figuring everything out, but of being okay with not always knowing. Trusting in oneself is a powerful life skill I am trying to hone. Strayed captures the essence of knowing oneself, but not outcomes, in a deeply artistic manner that drains and fills in one swoop.
Although readers of this post have surely heard of Wild, I will echo what most others seem to agree on: please read this book.