UP Book Club: “Wild” by Cheryl Strayed

I’ve just started my semester abroad, and my biggest concern?

Which new book to read on the flight over.

I had just seen Wild, starring Reese Witherspoon as a woman hiking the Pacific Coast Trail in an effort to find herself again. Cheryl Strayed – the film’s main character and the author of the autobiography – is left rootless and reeling after the death of her mother, the self-proclaimed “love of her life.” Cheryl falls into hard drugs, meaningless sex, and an unwillingness to change. The film begins with her decision to hike the PCT in hopes to emerge as the “girl her mother thought she was.”

image via westerngazette.ca
image via westerngazette.ca

While I enjoyed the film, reading Wild was an even richer experience for me. Cheryl Strayed recounts her epiphanies, banalities, and trials on the trail with shocking honesty. This truthfulness is reassuring, and it feels – cliche as it may sound – that we truly are going on this journey with her. The book is about growth, forgiveness, and acceptance, but never feels preachy. It’s intimate and specific and equally full of optimism and harsh reality. I left the book wanting to hike like Cheryl, and with a renewed sense of adventure and desire to grow. I would recommend it to anyone ready to enter the next big phase of their life.

image via apnatimepass.com
image via apnatimepass.com

Wild can be bought anywhere books are sold. Here’s a favorite excerpt featured in the film and the book:

“It was all unknown to me then, as I sat on that white bench on the day I finished my hike. Everything except the fact that I didn’t have to know. That is was enough to trust that what I’d done was true. To understand its meaning without yet being able to say precisely what it was. To believe that I didn’t need to reach with my bare hands anymore. To know that seeing the fish beneath the surface of the water was enough. That it was everything. It was my life – like all lives, mysterious and irrevocable and sacred. So very close, so very present, so very belonging to me. How wild it was, to let it be.” – Cheryl Strayed

– Jenny Henderson