We've discussed in great detail about how much I hate Oprah, and while I appreciate that her book club can motivate people to read, I would purposefully never take part in it. Key word: purposefully.
A few weeks ago I ordered Wild by Cheryl Strayed after reading about it in one of my issues of Runner's World- the story of a emotionally fragile woman who decided to take on the Pacific Crest Trail. And then that stupid Oprah bitch had to put it as the first selection of her 2.0 book club (whatever the hell that is). To make matters worse, I really wanted to read it before I hiked Half Dome, meaning I would be reading it at the same time all her little minions would be. Damn it to hell.
In through the nose, out through the nose.
Let's start over.
I just finished Wild, by Cheryl Strayed, a memoir about her time hiking the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), a route that starts at the Mexico-California borders and goes right on up to Canada. Strayed caught the trail in the Mojave, headed towards the base of the Sierras, had to detour by bus because of snow and then rejoined the trail near Reno, where she hiked through to the Oregon-Washington border. Strayed was young, devastated by the death of her mother and failed marriage, and clueless about what to do with the rest of her life. On a random trip to REI to buy a shovel she saw a book on the PCT and soon decided to go for it.
Strayed was seriously ill-prepared for the monumental task she took on. Her pack was at least twice as heavy as it should have been, her boots were too small (goodbye toenails), and she was constantly broke. She faced hours of loneliness and solitude on the trail (over 100 days), which gave her plenty of time to reflect on what had gone wrong in her life. Strayed cheated on her wonderful husband after her mother died and had dabbled in some hardcore drugs (heroin). She was short of graduating from college by one class and had very little contact with the family she was left with. Strayed was nothing short of a wreck.
Slowly she becomes stronger, emotionally and physically. She picks up valuable insight from other hikers, many of which become friends she sees throughout her trek. Her hikes become more efficient and she becomes a pro at making and breaking camp. She comes to term with what has happened in her life and feels more confident about life as she progresses along the PCT.
I liked this book, although I thought it was going to be a tad better than it was. I was immediately drawn to it because I too often decide to do things on a whim. It takes me weeks to hem and haw about getting a new pair of Toms, but I decided to go to Italy with my sister in a matter of two days. I've been researching fake grass to install in the backyard for almost a month, but decided to hike Half Dome with my brother after taking a picture of it one winter. I also really appreciated her perseverance and tolerance for pain, dirt, and poor hygiene (she took probably less than ten showers the entire time). I was constantly impressed withe camaraderie between the hikers and the helpfulness of those near the trail, including REI's willingness to overnight her a pair of boots when she called their customer satisfaction line.
I did have a few issues with the text, though. First of all, Strayed includes random tidbits regarding sex that seemed so out of place and awkward (like when she confesses that she hasn't even taken the time to pleasure herself on the trail or when she describes a scene that involves herself and a man, some boulders and a little honey...). At times she's just plain annoying, like when she confesses she wishes her trail name would be something like "mother effing queen of the trail" (or maybe it was "queen of the mother effing trail") or when she manages to lose one of her boots over a mountain (who the hell does that?). There was a lot of wallowing and sentimental reflection, which there's nothing wrong with, I'm just not always the most sympathetic reader (just because your mom died doesn't mean you get to be all slutty and shoot heroin... I guess we all cope in different ways).
All in all I thought it was a good, quick read that had enough of the nature/roughing it aspect to keep me interested. It was paced well, the narration was thoughtful, and the writing was decent. I am now extremely interested in the PCT and would love to hike some portions of it. I am hoping to get to spend at least a little time on it when I go to Tahoe in a few weeks. If not, there's always next summer...