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Oprah's Book Club 2.0 selection.A powerful, blazingly honest memoir: the story of an eleven-hundred-mile solo hike that broke down a young woman reeling from catastrophe--and built her back up again. At twenty-two, Cheryl Strayed thought she had lost everything. In the wake of her mother's death, her family scattered and her own marriage was soon destroyed. Four years later, with nothing more to lose, she made the most impulsive decision of her life: to hike the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to Washington State--and to do it alone. She had no experience as a long-distance hiker, and the trail was little more than "an idea, vague and outlandish and full of promise." But it was a promise of piecing back together a life that had come undone. Strayed faces down rattlesnakes and black bears, intense heat and record snowfalls, and both the beauty and loneliness of the trail. Told with great suspense and style, sparkling with warmth and humor, Wild vividly captures the terrors and pleasures of one young woman forging ahead against all odds on a journey that maddened, strengthened, and ultimately healed her.
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"A rich, riveting true story . . . During her grueling three-month journey, Strayed circled around black bears and rattlesnakes, fought extreme dehydration by drinking oily gray pond water, and hiked in boots made entirely of duct tape. Reading her matter-of-fact take on love and grief and the soul-saving quality of a Snapple lemonade, you can understand why Strayed has earned a cult following as the author of Dear Sugar, a popular advice column on therumpus.net. . . . With its vivid descriptions of beautiful but unforgiving terrain, Wild is a cinematic story, but Strayed's book isn't really about big, cathartic moments. The author never 'finds herself' or gets healed. When she reaches the trail's end, she buys a cheap ice cream cone and continues down the road. . . . It's hard to imagine anything more important than taking one step at a time. That's endurance, and that's what Strayed understands, almost 20 years later. As she writes, 'There was only one [option], I knew. To keep walking.' Our verdict: A." --Melissa Maerz, Entertainment Weekly"Strayed's journey was as transcendent as it was turbulent. She faced down hunger, thirst, injury, fatigue, boredom, loss, bad weather, and wild animals. Yet she also reached new levels of joy, accomplishment, courage, peace, and found extraordinary companionship." --Marjorie Kehe, Christian Science Monitor "It's not very manly, the topic of weeping while reading. Yet for a book critic tears are an occupational hazard. Luckily, perhaps, books don't make me cry very often. Turning pages, I'm practically Steve McQueen. Strayed's memoir, Wild, however, pretty much obliterated me. I was reduced, during her book's final third, to puddle-eyed cretinism. I like to read in coffee shops, and I began to receive concerned glances from matronly women, the kind of looks that said, 'Oh, honey.' To mention all this does Strayed a bit of a disservice, because there's nothing cloying about Wild. It's uplifting, but not in the way of many memoirs, where the uplift makes you feel that you're committing mental suicide. This book is as loose and sexy and dark as an early Lucinda Williams song. It's got a punk spirit and makes an earthy and American sound. . . . Wild recounts the months Strayed spent when she was 26, hiking alone on the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to Washington State. There were very frightening moments, but the author was not chewed on by bears, plucked dangling from the edge of a pit, buried by an avalanche or made witness to the rapture. No dingo ate anyone's baby. Yet everything happened. The clarity of Ms. Strayed's prose, and thus of her person, makes her story, in its quiet way, nearly as riveting an adventure narrative as Jon Krakauer's Into the Wild and Into Thin Air. . . . Her grief, early in this book, is as palpable as her confusion. Her portrait of her mother, who died of cancer at 45, is raw and bitter and reverent all at once. . . . Wild is thus the story of an unfolding. She got tougher, mentally as well as physically [and she] tells good, scary stories about nearly running out of water, encountering leering men and dangerous animals. . . The lack of ease in her life made her fierce and funny; she hammers home her hard-won sentences like a box of nails. The cumulative welling up I experienced during Wild was partly a response to that too infrequent sight: that of a writer finding her voice, and sustaining it, right in front of your eyes." --Dwight Garner, The New York Times "One of the most original, heartbreaking and beautiful American memoirs in years. . . . The unlikely journey is awe-inspiring, but it's one of the least remarkable things about the book. Strayed, who was recently revealed as the anonymous author of the 'Dear Sugar' advice column of the literary website The Rumpus, writes with stunningly authentic emotional resonance--Wild is brutal and touching in equal measures, but there's nothing forced about it. She chronicles sorrow and loss with unflinching honesty, but without artifice or self-pity. There are no easy answers in life, she seems to be telling the reader. Maybe there are no answers at all. It's fitting, perhaps, that the writer chose to end her long pilgrimage at the Bridge of the Gods, a majestic structure that stretches a third of a mile across the Columbia, the largest river in the Pacific Northwest. We think of bridges as separating destinations, just as we think of long journeys as the price we have to pay to get from one place to another. Sometimes, though, the journey is the destination, and the bridge connects more than just dots on a map--it joins reality with the dream world, the living with the dead, the tame with the wild." --Michael Schaub, NPR Books "Brilliant. . . pointedly honest . . . Part adventure narrative, part deeply personal reflection, Wild chronicles an adventure born of heartbreak. . . . While it is certain that the obvious dangers of the trail are real -- the cliffs are high, the path narrow, the ice slick, and the animal life wild -- the book's greatest achievement lies in its exploration of the author's emotional landscape. With flashbacks as organic and natural as memory itself, Strayed mines the bedrock of her past to reveal what rests beneath her compulsion to hike alone across more than one thousand primitive miles: her biological father's abuse and abandonment, her mother's diagnosis and death, and her family's unraveling. Strayed emerges from her grief-stricken journey as a practitioner of a rare and vital vocation. She has become an intrepid cartographer of the human heart." --Bruce Machart, Houston Chronicle "Strayed writes a crisp scene; her sentences hum with energy. She can describe a trail-parched yearning for Snapple like no writer I know. She moves us briskly along the route, making discrete rest stops to parcel out her backstory. It becomes impossible not to root for her." --Karen R. Long, The Cleveland Plain Dealer "[A] vivid, touching and ultimately inspiring account of a life unraveling, and of the journey that put it back together. . . . The darkness is relieved by self-deprecating humor as [Strayed] chronicles her hiking expedition and the rebirth it helped to inspire. . . . Wild easily transcends the hiking genre, though it presents plenty of details about equipment ordeals and physical challenges. Anyone with some backpacking experience will find Strayed's chronicle especially amusing. Her boots prove too small. The trail destroys her feet. Then there is the possibility of real mortality: She repeatedly finds herself just barely avoiding rattlesnakes. Strayed is honest about the tedium of hiking but also alert to the self-discovery that can be stirred by solitude and self-reliance. . . . Pathos and humor are her main companions on the trail, although she writes vividly about the cast of other pilgrims she encounters. Finding out 'what it was like to walk for miles, ' Strayed writes, was 'a powerful and fundamental experience.' And knowing that feeling has a way of taming the challenges thrown up by modern life." --Michael J. Ybarra, The Wall Street Journal "Strayed's journey is the focal point of Wild, in which she interweaves suspenseful accounts of her most harrowing crises with imagistic moments of reflection. Her profound grief over her mother's death, her emotional abandonment by her siblings and stepfather, and her personal shortcomings and misadventures are all conveyed with a consistently grounded, quietly pained self-awareness. On the trail, she fends of everything from loneliness to black bears; we groan when her boots go tumbling off a cliff and we rejoice as she transforms from a terrified amateur hiker into the 'Queen of the PCT.' In a style that embodies her wanderlust, Strayed transports us with this gripping, ultimately uplifting tale." --Catherine Straut, ELLE "Spectacular. Wild is at once a breathtaking adventure tale and a profound meditation on the nature of grief and survival. . . . . Strayed's load is both literal and metaphorical--so heavy that she staggers beneath its weight. . . . Often when narratives are structured in parallel arcs, the two stories compete and one dominates. But in Wild, the two tales Strayed tells, of her difficult past and challenging present, are delivered in perfect balance. Not only am I not an adventurer myself, but I am not typically a reader of wilderness stories. Yet I was riveted step by precarious step through Strayed's encounters with bears, rattlesnakes, mountain lion scat, ice, record snow and predatory men. She lost six toenails, suffered countless bruises and scabs, improvised bootees made of socks wrapped in duct tape, woke up one time covered in frogs, and met strangers who were extraordinarily kind to her. Perhaps her adventure is so gripping because Strayed relates its gritty, visceral details not out of a desire to milk its obviously dramatic circumstances, but out of a powerful, yet understated, imperative to understand its meaning. We come to feel how her actions and her internal struggles intertwine, and appreciate the lessons she finds embedded in the natural world. . . . Strayed is a clearheaded, scarred, human, powerful and enormously talented writer who is secure enough to confess she does not have all the answers. . . Wild isn't a concept-generated book, that is, one of those great projects that began as a good, salable idea. Rather, it started out as an experience that was lived, digested and deeply understood. Only then was it fashioned into a book--one that is both a literary and human triumph." --Dani Shapiro, The New York Times Book Review "What should you do when you have truly lost your way? A. Go to rehab. B. Find God. C. Give up. D. Strap on an 80-pound backpack and hike 1,100 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail by yourself. Few of us who would even come up with D, much less do it. Yet that is exactly what Strayed did at age 26, though she had no serious experience backpacking or hiking. Within days of beginning her trek--already bruised, bloodied and broke--it occurred to her that this whimsical choice was the hardest thing she'd ever done. . . . What she does have is brute persistence, sheer will and moxie, and her belief that there is only one option: 'To keep walking.' . . . In her journey from the most hapless hiker on Earth to the Queen of the PCT, Strayed offers not just practical and spiritual wisdom, but a blast of sheer, ferocious moral inspiration." --Marion Winik, Newsday "When a book has this kind of velocity, when a narrative is enriched by the authority and raw power of a voice like Strayed's, it barely needs a plot to pull the reader into its vortex. But this first memoir by the author of the well-received novel Torch does indeed have a tightly loaded trajectory. Wild is a poetically told tale of devastation and redemption that begins with the death of Strayed's mother when Strayed was 22, and ends four years later, after she writes herself an unusual prescription in hopes of saving her own life. . . . Although Wild is the story of an exceptional young woman who takes exceptional measures to ease an exceptional amount of pain, the universality of Strayed's emotions, paired with the searing intimacy of her prose, convince us that she's more like than unlike us, and that she did something most of us would never do, but for reasons we can all understand. . . . And so we relate to her and root for her as she walks, through searing heat and trail-blurring snow, wearing boots that don't fit, with inadequate supplies of money, food, water and experience, escaping the clutches of scary wildlife and scary men along the way. For three months. Alone. She keeps going even when her feet are shredded and her water runs out and an unseasonal blizzard blocks her way. Reading a travelogue of a long hike could be as thrilling as watching a faucet drip. But Strayed is a formidable talent, a woman in full control of her emotions, her soul, and her literary gift, and in Wild she's parlayed her heartache and her blisters into an addictive, gorgeous book that not only entertains, but leaves us the better for having read it." --Meredith Maran, The Boston Globe "[Wild] is really two books in one. Initially it's a story of grief and a chronicle of the loss of her mother, her marriage, even the loss of her last name. . . . And in this way, Wild is much more than a book about grief and loss. [But] it's also about change and transformation, an adventure story full of hope, friendship, and second chances at life. From all appearances, this is a woman who has found her place in the world, both on the home front and in literary circles, where the buzz about her new memoir has steadily grown into a roar." --Leslie Schwartz, Poets & Writers "A long-distance hike through the wilds of the West is a perfect metaphor for someone seeking to draw a new line from past to future, and it's with such self-awareness that Strayed sets out--with woeful preparation--to hike the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert to the California-Oregon border. The journey's purpose is to correct the trajectory of her life and lead her to a better version of herself. Flashbacks to her childhood in northern Minnesota, to the collapse of her marriage, and, most of all, to her mother's death and the subsequent dissolution of her family, give us a troubled and complex figure whose lostness is palpable. . . . It's a fearless story, told in honest prose that is wildly lyrical as often as it is physical." --Scott Parker, The Minneapolis Star Tribune "We readers love memoirs for the most selfish of reasons: As we encounter the writer's decisions, collisions, the chances taken or missed, some part of our brain is simultaneously revisiting the things in our own lives that got us this far. Strayed's Wild is one of the best examples of this phenomenon to come along since Poser by Clare Dederer last year and Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott's classic. . . . Anyone who has read a lot of this genre in recent years can't help but brace herself for the sordid details of a downward spiral. Strayed, however, takes to a different trail. The Pacific Crest Trail, to be precise. . . . Wild will appeal to readers who dream of making such a hike, and Strayed's descriptions of the landscape will not disappoint. They are as frank and original as the rest of the book . . . This isn't Cinderella in hiking boots, it's a woman coming out of heartbreak, darkness and bad decisions with a clear view of where she has been. She isn't inoculated against all future heartbreak, but she suspects she can make it through what comes next. Wild could slide neatly into predictability, but it doesn't. There are adventures and characters aplenty, from heartwarming to dangerous, but Strayed resists the temptation to overplay or sweeten such moments. Her pacing is impeccable as she captures her impressive journey. She deftly revisits the mix of bravado and introspection inside the head of a wounded young woman. Her honesty never flags." --Kimberly Marlowe Hartnett, The Seattle Times Book Description:
'One of the best books I've read in the last five or ten years... Wild is angry, brave, sad, self-knowing, redemptive, raw, compelling, and brilliantly written, and I think it's destined to be loved by a lot of people, men and women, for a very long time.' Nick Hornby
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