Sunday, June 30, 2013

Wild by Cheryl Strayed

Panda grumbles: Wild was a DNF (again) for me. I read up to 146/315 pages, though. So, I’m still going to review what I read and tell you why I didn’t finish (Panda is nothing but helpful). 

By page 5, when I read she had been a homecoming queen and a cheerleader I already hated her. But I knew that “cheerleader” was kind of a different stereotype for back then, so I forgave her (something I felt like I was having to do a lot in this book, another reason I eventually stopped reading) and kept at it.

She, the author, is very self-involved – even going so far as to say she helped her ex-husband apply for grad school – as if she had anything to do with him getting accepted (because of course you’re accepted based on who you’re married to). It was her little comments like that that made me want to punch her in the face. She thinks the world revolves around her.  Everyone she meets on her “adventure” seems so poised to help her. She had no struggle at all – nothing she was really fighting against except her own stupid self – something I could not sympathize with because I AM NOTHING LIKE HER.

Another thing about the book that I hated was that… Well, she meets so many guys on the trail. She sexualizes ALL of them as if all they were – or should have been – into her. She goes on the trail to get away from her sex life (and other things) only to create a new one there. News flash, girl friend, you are not God’s gift to man and you are not God’s gift to the memoir. Your story was pointless and emphasizes the fact you are full of yourself.  

Writing a punishment post is a pleasure if I don’t have to finish your book! lol.

Hel speaks:

I agree with Amanda's points, but they didn't ruin the book for me. You don't have to be like Strayed to appreciate her struggle. I think (and Amanda would have realized this if she had finished :P) that Strayed's honesty about her admittedly horrible, self centered, depraved personality is not a boast but a depiction of the evolution of her character while out on the trail. It's really no surprise that she thinks she is the cats meow, because everyone she comes across seems to think she is as well. That breeds ego. I've looked at her website and have to admit that she still comes across like an abrasive person and definitely not someone I would like in real life, but I admire her perseverance and courage. I could only dream of doing what she did (and dream of it I do!)

Strayed jumps around in her story telling. She begins the book towards the middle of her hike and then back tracks. Throughout her hike, she looks back on her life and explains the things that made her who she was on that trail. I liked this continual unfolding, but I can see how it is also a detriment for readers like Panda who hate Strayed for who she was at the beginning of the trail without knowing WHY. Maybe the reasons don't matter, but there are valid ones. SPOILER ALERT. Strayed is abused by her father as a child, and was forced to watch him abuse her siblings and mother. Strayed is raised by her mother and later step father in a very interesting setting - on a huge plot of land in Minnesota, first in a little handmade shack with an outhouse and later in a small house that they also built themselves. She became extremely close to her mom so watching her die an agonizing death breaks her as a person. She becomes a sex addict, cheats numerous times on her husband, leaves him and lives in a cocaine (or was it heroine?) haze for a while, etc etc, until she finally decides she needs something to wake her up: a one thousand mile hike.

The interesting/enthralling part of this book isn't the writing (which is very good, in my opinion), or the character, but the hike. The obstacles she and the other hikers face, and how they overcome them. Seeing them struggle and overcome is mind boggling and makes you feel powerful, like humans can do anything. It was certainly an inspiration to me.

To contradict Panda, as I always do - I would highly recommend this book.


  1. Since you didn't finish the book, perhaps my ongoing review of it will prove helpful:


  2. I agree with Panda...I also didn't finish it (stopped at chapter 4). I think this is the first book I've never finished. Boring, bad writing, NOT a book about hiking (as it is promoted to be) & cheryl is way too in love with narcissistic self. I did, however, read the blogspot above^ Now THAT is good writing AND entertaining!

  3. First eight words of 'Wild': "The trees were tall, but I was taller...". Okay, seems a little full of herself, but I'll keep reading. To paraphrase the first and second paragraphs: "I lost my boot over the edge and threw the other one after it." Well, now we have someone who is full of themselves and is also an idiot.

    But maybe there will be good writing. You know, like repeating the entire, very long name of the ubiquitous guidebook every time it is mentioned because that will be really funny, right? Or including a slapstick scene involving her backpack in a book featuring heroin addiction, potential rapists at every turn, and the horrific deaths of humans and horses? No? What?

    Well, how about depictions of the trail?: "I walked, and walked, and walked...up, and up, and up." Okay, then maybe the sex scenes: "We kissed, and kissed, and kissed." -- No, these really didn't do it for me, although I have to admit, lovemaking involving honey and sand did get my attention. (Note to self, when you want to emphasize something, repeat it three times.)

    Let's cut to the end to see if our heroine (get it, heroin?!) learns anything. Two soldiers, who have just commented on her backpack being heavier than theirs, give her a beer as they're leaving, and one says over his shoulder, "We want you to have it 'cause you're tougher than us." Cheryl, Cheryl, Cheryl, that's not how it works. It's okay, and as it should be, for others to sing your praises, but not when you write the sheet music!

    And so it went.

    Yes, just like Dorothy Parker, I get up each morning, brush my teeth, and sharpen my tongue. (Obviously, that's where any comparison to DP begins and ends.) Cheers.

    Oh, I live very near the PCT in Nor Cal, where she did her big snow slog, and using my local knowledge, her words, a map, and other 1995 hiker info, I can prove it didn't happen.