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What We're (Finally) Reading Now: 'Wild' by Cheryl Strayed

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Wild Cheryl Strayed

I know that I am perhaps a little late to jump on the Wild train. (It was published in 2012.) But as the movie is about to come out and I love pretentiously declaring all the differences between the book and the movie to all my friends throughout a screening and the entire way home, this week was my last chance.

You’re probably aware of the gist of the tale by now, even from movie previews alone. Cheryl Strayed needs to pull herself out of an emotional low, and her method for doing so is making an 1,100 mile hike over 3 months on the Pacific Crest Trail. She’s abused herself with drugs, she’s cheated on her husband, the memories of her dead mother lock her in perpetual grief and self-medication. She needs, for lack of better phrasing, to walk it all off.

I knew all this going in. I knew that Strayed and I share, or have shared, similar pains. I knew that she eventually healed — she’s a public figure who seems happily married and has a couple of children now. I knew that Oprah loved it, as did the millions who made it a best-seller. But what I didn’t know was that Strayed, at least on paper, is a thorny character. I found her too indulgent. Too selfish. Too keen to make every situation revolve around her. In my defense, I “met” her as a heroin-using, adulterous, grieving, mess. In her defense, that is the point of the book, entirely.

Regardless, I loved it. The journey, the writing, all of it.

It is of coming undone. Fraying at the edges and feeling all the feels. More than once, I came undone — frayed and feeling –right along with her. Strayed is fierce and she is volatile and a complete hurricane of a woman. She is not soft, and she certainly is not delicate. There were many times I buried my head in the book’s bindings, unable to look at the page and read what she was doing. There were as many times that I had to mop up my tears or muffle my laugh from my morning train-mates. And, of course, there were also times I had to put the book down, overwhelmed by her story and what memories of my own surfaced along her trek (does this mean I am also guilty of making every situation revolve around me?).

I’ve high hopes for the movie, but I hope you’ll take a peek at these book pages before you see it.

What does everyone else think? Has everyone else already read it?

 

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