Cheryl Strayed's itinerant upbringing comes to an end as she, her mother, father-in-law, sister and brother end up in Minnesota, building a house on land the family has bought. Cheryl and her mom, whom she loves deeply, begin college together. Just before finishing, her mom is diagnosed with cancer and, soon after, dies. Cheryl is devastated. Before she leaves town, she lies in the dirt where they spread her ashes: "I had to go. She wasn't there for me in that flowerbed anymore anyway," she writes. "I'd put her someplace else."
Thus begins Wild, a poignant, no-holds barred, kick-ass memoir that will grab you by the throat and shake you to your core. Strayed is 22 when her mom dies, and for the next four years she's a mess: after her marriage breaks up, she sleeps around like a feral cat in heat, has an abortion and becomes addicted to heroin. Near rock bottom, she sees a book at a checkout counter about the Pacific Crest Trail, a wilderness trail running from the Mexican border to Washington State. She buys the book, deciding that to save herself she must hike the trail, solo; this "was what I had to do," she says. "I had to change."
In a motel room in Mojave, Calif., about to embark, she packs up and realizes she's never really hiked, never really carried a pack as heavy as a small car before. Nevertheless, she takes a shaky step into the hot light, a bundled astronaut beginning her first moonwalk. The very first day, she's stabbed by a Joshua tree, then loses her bandages in a gust of wind while trying to open her first aid kit with bloodied hands. That evening, she pulls out one of the few books she has allowed herself to carry and reads an Adrienne Rich poem entitled "Power" over and over. As her journey continues, Strayed seamlessly weaves events on the trail with memories, good and bad, that explain why this hike had to be.
And so it goes, for 1,100 miles and three arduous months--through injuries, hunger, thirst, strangers met, kindnesses shown, ice and snow, some hilarity, much suffering, almost quitting and much learning. She thinks about the "old thread I'd lost, the new one I was spinning," everything that had broken her, and how to make herself "whole again," and in the end, found. --Tom Lavoie, former publisher
Shelf Talker: A not so distant cousin to Mary Karr's The Liar's Club, this powerful and raw, deeply felt, often humorous, and beautifully written memoir turns hiking into an act of redemption and salvation.