I met Cheryl Strayed last year here in San Francisco, during her The Rumpus reading with the wonderful Lidia Yuknavitch and Dylan Landis. I admit I had never heard of Cheryl before that night. Her reading, though, an excerpt from her then forthcoming memoir, WILD, made me an instant fan.
Toward the end of the evening, Cheryl and I stood close together at the bar and I worked up the courage to say hello and compliment her on her reading and gush about the excerpt. I think it was Cheryl’s red dress that prompted me to say hello. Red is my favorite color and you know how I am about ‘signs.’ I’m not great about introducing myself to people, but I’m getting better. Maybe because I had such a good experience that night. Cheryl was so gracious and kind and down to earth. It wasn’t until months later that I learned Cheryl was also the anonymous author behind The Rumpus Dear Sugar advice column, a column I loved. And so when WILD published, I rushed to my local bookstore, panting.
I want better words to describe Cheryl Strayed’s memoir, WILD. Words beyond honest, searing, compelling, and inspiring.
WILD is a memoir about courage, strength, power, resilience, and healing. It’s a memoir about the opposite of all that too.
WILD is an ode to Cheryl Strayed’s mother, an account of working through grief, and a testimony to the human spirit.
WILD is a memoir about love and loss and mistakes and regrets. Their opposites too.
WILD made me see the potential in fear, loss, grief, and the absence of a mother. The potential for such experiences to become layers that inform and enlarge us rather than gaping holes that diminish.
WILD: A powerful, blazingly honest memoir: the story of an eleven-hundred-mile solo hike that broke down a young woman reeling from catastrophe—and built her back up again. At twenty-two, Cheryl Strayed thought she’d lost everything when her mother died young of cancer. Her family scattered in their grief, her marriage was soon destroyed, and slowly her life spun out of control. Four years after her mother’s death, with nothing more to lose, Strayed made the most impulsive decision of her life: to hike the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to Washington State—and to do it alone. She had no experience as a long-distance hiker–indeed, she’d never gone backpacking before her first night on the trail. Her trek was little more than “an idea, vague and outlandish and full of promise.” But it was a promise of piecing back together a life that had come undone. Strayed faces down rattlesnakes and black bears, intense heat and record snowfalls, and both the beauty and intense loneliness of the trail. Told with great suspense and style, sparkling with warmth and humor, Wild vividly captures the terrors and pleasures of one young woman forging ahead against all odds on a journey that maddened, strengthened, and ultimately healed her.
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