Even if you’ve seen the movie you should still read this book…

I may belong to Oundle Crime but I don’t always read crime fiction, and our website is happy to feature non-crime reviews. So, this blog is about a book that I picked up at the library quite by accident: Wild – a journey from lost to found by Cheryl Strayed.

I chose it because it looked interesting and I thought my husband (who likes travel books) might enjoy it too. On the surface it seems to be a travel book, but in reality it’s so much more. It is, in fact, such a good story that it’s been made into a film. But if you’ve seen ‘Wild’ starring Reese Witherspoon don’t let that stop you from reading the book that inspired the movie. To my mind, the film isn’t a patch on this book.

The story
At the age of 26, the author, Cheryl, lost her beloved mother to a very rapidly developing cancer, after which her family (two siblings and a stepfather) quickly disbanded. Cheryl, herself, lost her way in life, straying into near prostitution and a gradually worsening drug habit. In the process her marriage disintegrated and her beloved husband, who had rescued her numerous times from her drug stupor, finally left her.

With nothing left to lose, she made the most impulsive decision of her life: to walk the 1,100 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail, up through California and Oregon, having never previously done more than short hikes in her home state of Minnesota.

What follows is a riveting description of her struggles, walking a high mountain trail in boots that turn out to be too small, and carrying a rucksack, which she aptly names ‘Monster’ because of its size and enormous weight.

My verdict
I really liked this book. She writes well. The narrative flows easily and smoothly, is never laboured and is always interesting. It’s a very readable mix of the story of her life from childhood up until the day she leaves on her walk; and of descriptions of the gruelling and, at times, almost impossible high mountain trail. She walks alone, but gradually gets to know other hikers, whom she meets and briefly spends time with, either on the trail or in the infrequent camps. At times the tension is high as, for example, when she nearly steps on a rattlesnake, or during the times when she runs out of money. I used a map to help me follow the route she walked – talk about inhospitable!

This is a mixture of a travel book, a memoir as well as being a kind of self-help book. Cheryl found herself on this trek and has stayed ‘found’ – and in the years since, she’s written several self-help titles.

At nearly 400 pages this is a long book, but it was never a struggle to read. I will give it 4.5 stars, for its readability and for Cheryl’s sheer determination to turn her life around.
Review by: Freyja

P.S. Just to let you know, if you buy books linked to our site, we may earn a commission from Bookshop.org, whose fees support independent bookshops.