Rarely do I read a non-fiction book that really grabs me to the point that I can't stop talking about it! Wild is one of those books.
This past week, my daughter-in-law and I went to hear the author speak here in Rochester. I don't think I moved the entire hour plus that she spoke.
Cheryl Strayed was a 26-year-old young woman from the school of hard knocks (some of her own doing, but most not) when she decided, on a whim, to hike the Pacific Crest Trail in 1995. She had no previous backpacking experience. Now I know a thing or two about backpacking, folks. In my younger years, I probably backpacked somewhere in the 300 to 400 mile range in a string of trips lasting from a weekend to several week-long journeys. My trips were in the Adirondacks of New York State, down in Pennsylvania and up into Vermont. Aside from that, I have done dozens and dozens of day hiking trips in the back woods. When I tell you that you don't decide to go hike 1000 miles on the PCT without a lot of previous experience, I know what I'm talking about! But that is just what Cheryl Strayed did.
So many times in reading her book, I screamed out loud, "NO, NO, DON'T DO THAT!" My dogs looked at me like they wondered what my problem was.
But this book is not just about a backpacking journey. No, it is much more than that. Cheryl's life was one long string of dysfunction. As a very young child, she watched her biological father viciously abuse her mother. She grew up in a very poor single parent home. Her mother remarried and her step-father was a good father to her. But then her mother developed cancer and died within 7 weeks of being diagnosed. That hit Cheryl really hard. She married a man she truly loved, yet she couldn't be faithful to him. Her family scattered after her mother's death and her marriage crumbled. Her world crumbled.
She needed a snow shovel one winter in her native Minnesota so she went to an REI store. That was where her eyes wandered across the cover of a guidebook for the Pacific Crest Trail.
The trials and tribulations that she experienced on the trail transformed her into a strong and confident woman.
I don't want to give away too much here! Read the book! Whether you have ever set foot in the back woods, miles from civilization or not, you will benefit from reading of her journey. Her writing is excellent. She is even better at public speaking!
3 hours ago