Wednesday, September 23, 2015

WILD by Cheryl Strayed

Authors who write successful memoirs almost always have a comeback story to tell.  Frankly, they all strike me as a little self-congratulatory, and this one is no exception.  Twenty-something Cheryl Strayed has never emotionally recovered from the death of her mother, and her grief has left her so bereft of good sense that she cheats on her beloved husband and becomes addicted to heroin.  To get her life back on track, she decides to backpack the Pacific Crest Trail alone for three months, despite a cavalier disregard for the need to train.  Her pack is so extraordinarily heavy that she cannot lift it without putting it on, and her boots cause blisters on her feet and blacken her toe nails.  In any case, she trundles on, facing threatening wildlife, snow and ice, intimidating hunters of the two-legged variety, and dehydration, with guts and optimism—most of the time, at least.  She’s not a whiner, but she is incredibly foolish, and somehow she survives, thanks to a fair amount of good luck, the kindness of strangers, and sheer willpower.  However, I can’t say that I ever warmed up to her.  For one thing, I found her story totally lacking in humor.  Her myriad mistakes are not funny at all; on the contrary, they’re quite depressing.  I admire her for making the trip and thus digging herself out of a debilitating funk, but, to me, this story is a little too much about Cheryl patting herself on the back.  She marvels at the fact that men still find her attractive when she hasn’t bathed in two weeks, but I’m more impressed with her refusal to give up or to give in to fear, although her nightmares about Bigfoot seemed a little nutty.  Still, after all she’s overcome, I guess she’s earned the right to strut her stuff.

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