Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail is Cheryl Strayed’s personal memoir of her experience hiking the Pacific Crest Trail in the summer of 1995. Cheryl shares with her readers the physical, emotional, logistical, and spiritual challenges she faced while hiking from Mojave, California to the Oregon-Washington border. Flashbacks throughout the book tell readers about the life situations that ultimately brought Cheryl to the decision to hike the trail.
The term “Adult Child of an Alcoholic” is never used in the book. However, Cheryl Strayed is definitely a member of the club. She experienced dysfunction, trauma, and ultimately abandonment from her alcoholic father at a young age. After the very quick and heartbreaking death of her mother when Cheryl is in her early 20s, she hits a breaking point in her life and the pain gushes forward. (Raise your hand if you’ve ever had that happen.) Grieving, lonely, and lost, Cheryl engages in sexual affairs, experiences an unplanned pregnancy, and begins using heroin with a boyfriend. During this dark time, Cheryl is drawn to a guidebook about the Pacific Crest Trail and she makes the hasty decision to hike it without any experience or much preparation. And this is the beginning of a fascinating chapter of her story…
I enjoyed reading this book and I really love Cheryl’s honesty and authenticity throughout the entire novel. It is very evident that Cheryl gave readers the good, the bad, and the ugly experiences of her past while writing this book and I am so very thankful for that. We all need the chance to raise our hand and say “me too” in response to another person’s story; the chance to see ourselves in the honest exposures of other people’s challenges and pain. We don’t give each other this gift nearly enough.
It seems to me that Cheryl emerged at the end of her hike having allowed the sun, the air, and the aloneness to clean out some very deep wounds inside of her. I do wonder the extent of the restorative nature of…well, her experience in nature. I’d like to ask Cheryl what else she has done to work on herself throughout the years – if she did additional counseling or 12-step programs or anything like that. Either way, I think this book is a great read with a message of redemption and healing and a call to arms to take personal responsibility for our own lives. But in the words of Geordi La Forge LeVar Burton, you don’t have to take my word for it.