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The Last Book of 2013: Wild by Cheryl Strayed

6 Jan

So I finished my last book of 2013 on December 30. Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed.

It was mildly ironic and altogether fitting that I finish a book about finding yourself on the second to last day of 2013, a year in which many could say that I lost my way a bit.

Wild follows the journey of Cheryl Strayed (which, btw, isn’t even her real name) as she hiked the Pacific Coast Trail about 20 years ago. Her mom dies, she starts sleeping around, does a bunch of heroin, her marriage subsequently breaks up, and then it’s time for the life-changing trip on the PCT.

As you might guess, I don’t have a lot of sympathy for Cheryl.

Don’t get me wrong — the story is quite interesting, and once the book picked up, I was throughly engrossed. The people she meets on the trail, the journey itself, the freedom of just being alone and doing something challenging all at the same time, is fascinating. It’s the whole “woe is me, my mother died and then I did heroin and had casual sex” sob story that I can’t deal with. It’s hard to lay all the dirty and messy and not-so-nice parts of yourself out on the table, which I give her credit for. It’s a brave thing to do. But these things are not badges of honor or even battle scars. They’re just another piece that makes you whole.

Can you have sweet without the salt? Would she have hiked the PCT if not for the heroin habit and dead mother? I don’t know.

I’m glad I read this book, although it’s not one that I would read again or even necessarily recommend. There are times in the book she is just so awful that I just could not stand her. Really, truly, disliked her as a person and a protagonist.

And it just made me think, “Wow, if she is this awful, and manages to survive it all, you can be just a bit better as a person too.” Nothing like one person’s tragedy to make you feel better about your own life.

In the end, I’m glad Cheryl gets it together. I’m actually happy that she has a happy ending. Because she is honest. The good and the bad, the sweet and the salty, the ups and the downs, at least she tells them (mostly) all.

And if she read above, where I said I didn’t like her as a protagonist? I like to think she would be okay with it. Because as much as I don’t like the heroin-addict-lets-sleep-around side of her, I’m pretty sure she is the type of girl that can handle some divergent opinions.

 

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