By Cheryl Strayed, 2013
If you have not yet heard of this New York Times bestseller, you have clearly been out in the wilderness for far too long. A brilliant memoir and feminist work by well-known author Cheryl Strayed, this book provides incredible insight into what it truly means to leave everything behind, and draws a heartfelt map for dealing with loss when every other avenue seems impossible.
Several years after the death of her mother, Cheryl Strayed has found herself in the midst of drug abuse, adultery, and the constant downward pull of grief that drives her marriage apart and brings her whole life with it. One fateful day during a snowstorm in Minneapolis and a trip into REI to buy a shovel, Strayed comes across a trail guide for the Pacific Crest Trail, a 2,650 mile journey through California, Oregon, and Washington between the borders of Mexico, the US, and Canada. Her decision to "walk herself back to the woman her mother thought she was" brought her on a daunting hike through mountain ranges and deserts, across rivers and into the face of danger, but most importantly forced her to confront her inner demons and visit places in her consciousness that were far more treacherous than the PCT proved. Her pack was heavy but her heart was heavier.
While it is a story of grief and reconciliation, "Wild" is at its core an account of adventure and I couldn't put it down. Strayed's detailed prose makes the book even better, and exposes the beauty and tragedy in each peak she summits and every vista she takes in. It is just as much a beginner's guide to greif as it is a beginner's guide to backpacking, and if I have ever been inspired to hike for months on end through the unknown, it is from reading this extremely important memoir.
Also, the recently released film adaptation is fantastic and Reece Witherspoon takes on the role of Strayed flawlessly. (It is valuable to note also though that just because this is a feminist work focusing on grief does not mean that it cannot be enjoyed by all–I recently met a man from a temp agency in his sixties who loved the book and saw the movie twice!)