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By Mary Burns
Between the Covers 

A trail to a new life

Review: 'Wild' by Cheryl Strayed


Cheryl Strayed wasn't her name when she was born, nor when she married. It was the name she took as penance for being the cause of divorce from the man she still loved. The sudden illness, decline and death of her mother had shattered Cheryl; nothing she could do alleviated the pain.

She needed a new world. "When I had no roof I made Audacity my roof," she quotes from Robert Pinsky. Cheryl was muddling through what was becoming her self-destructive life when she happened to see a book about the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), which goes from the California border of Mexico to the Canadian border – a trail with a beginning and an end, with maps and guidebooks. This was what she needed: a way to get from lost to found. She commenced planning, selling her belongings and spending time at REI as she planned for a three-month hike on the PCT.

In the prologue of this book, the author tells us how, six weeks into the PCT, she removed her boots to massage her painful feet, "a throbbing mass of pulp," and bumped her massive pack (which she had already named "Monster" for its heft, complexity and difficulty in strapping on and removing). It sent one boot flying over the cliff.

Cheryl Strayed's narrative traverses from such happenstance to "trail magic," from "food fantasies" to scenery that was both spectacular and comforting. She writes of singing loudly on the trail to alert the bears, which always seemed to be going in the direction she was heading. She encountered other people on the trail, but she remained alone.

She embraces the reader on her journey, the summation of which is that, as she headed into Oregon, feet hurting but no longer bleeding, she envisioned all the fresh berries she could pluck as she walked.


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