by Cheryl Strayed
My bookclub loved it and fought me when I brought up anything negative – those crazy wine-fueled ladies! It is a memoir and quite reflective. Strayed lost her mom, lost her way and decided to hike the Pacific Crest Trail to find herself. She weaves her destructive behavior pre-hike along with the stories about her mother and family with the hike itself. There are some difficult subjects which are glazed over, and some that are simply laid bare. It is really well written but not for everyone. She lost her mom at a young age (22) and without that anchor her life came undone. At 22 we can be selfish and think we know more than everyone else. This shines through, she was a selfish person going through a lot of pain. Her decisions are not well thought out, she was actually quite lucky on the trail and in life.
If you don’t mind a different perspective on life and loss and are not looking for or expecting a pure travel/trail book like A Walk in the Woods or Into Thin Air, then check it out. Much of what happens sticks with you. It makes you contemplate hiking alone, how to handle bears, what it would be like to be dirty for so long and struggle to walk another step. I have driven next to the trail on my way to Mammoth and I can tell you, I don’t think I would want to hike it. Not with a huge old pack with all my survival gear strapped to my back.
My issue with it was that the immediacy was lacking at times. Strayed hiked the trail in 1995 and at least published this only a few years ago. So it is often reflective and even though there are many scenes that unfold very vividly, for me it was flavored with that reflective feeling. Also, I really enjoy hiking, so I was hoping for more trail stuff. Don’t get me wrong, we do get a LOT of trail stuff and she indicates there is a lot of monotony as she ended up singing songs to herself. But I wanted pictures or something. Is that shallow of me?
There are some scenes about her life that are very vivid. Including some super sad things, drug use, cancer, adultery and saying goodbye to your mom. If someone has read this, what did you think about the horse scene and the bones? Seriously. O_0
Anyway, it was interesting and enjoyable. I liked it, don’t think I will hike the Pacific Crest Trail myself and give her huge props for finishing, I give it 3 stars carrying backpacks filled with way too many things, their points blacken and fall off as they trudge along the mountains in the sky.