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Cheryl Strayed: Wild (2012)

wildThere’s not really a need to tell most people about Wild any more, I don’t think (but I will anyway, because I loved loved loved it! Ha.). Most people have heard of it, possibly because of the film that came out recently with Cheryl Strayed played by Reese Witherspoon. That’s how I first became interested – I’d seen the book in bookshops before but it wasn’t until I saw a review of the film that I became interested. Usually I like to read the book before watching the film, but in this case it was actually the other way around: I became so intrigued by Strayed’s solo hike along the Pacific Crest Trail when I watched the film that I wanted the additional depth of the book.

I’m very glad about that, too, because Wild is an absolutely fascinating account of how a woman finds herself (again). Shaken by her mother’s too early death, Cheryl Strayed’s life gets out of hand. Her stepfather, her siblings, her husband – all the relations that have been her social web lose meaning in the aftermath, or people filter out of her life. Strayed had a very special relationship with her mother and losing her throws her completely off track: she cheats compulsively on her husband, races across the US from one temporary living arrangement to another, and even starts doing heroin.

Then, one day, she sees a guidebook of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) at a shop, and an idea begins to take shape: can she find herself again by hiking the trail all by herself for three months? And so she starts preparing, sells most of her belongings, and sets off. Wild is a journey, not just along the PCT, but towards becoming the woman she once was.

I loved Cheryl Strayed’s voice in Wild: unapologetic, honest, thoughtful, and smart. I really enjoyed the reflections on her life before and after the watershed of her mother’s death, on love, on what it means to be a daughter, a wife, and on physical and mental challenges. I had expected to like it, but not to enjoy it this much, to be honest. Wild made me want to pack up my stuff, hike out for three months, and see what would happen to my personality. Who knows, perhaps I will, one day. Maybe not three months, but a while.

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