Odd Shelf: Wild

It’s been a while, with finals encroaching on my life, that I’ve had time to sit and read a book I wanted for fun (hence the Odd Shelf delays). This one actually I was reading for my creative nonfiction class–ha–but I would have read it for fun and it feels especially pertinent to me because it’s a memoir about a three month hiking trip, and in less than two weeks, I’m leaving on a two month hiking trip (though a little less extreme).

And yes, it’s on Oprah’s book club. Don’t judge me for that. Sometimes she gets it right.


Wild: A Journey From Lost to Found is a memoir written by a woman who hiked the Pacific Crest Trail in the late 90’s. While the hike itself is interesting, but not overly excited, the hike is more about her recovery after losing her mother to cancer and falling into this self-destructive depression that ended her marriage.

There’s a lot of raw, spare-no-details confession. I’m not a judgmental reader–or not usually. I read bad behavior all the time and still manage to sympathize with the character. On this occasion, I found my lip curling with disgust more than once. I couldn’t understand why I was being so harsh on someone who’d clearly gone through a lot, and I realized it was because after reading certain moments of courage on the hike, I was expecting someone with more character. But that’s one of the reasons I liked this book and one of the ideas it plays with: people can be both things at once. We are at the same time good and bad, and our bad choices don’t negate the good ones, and vice versa.

Strayed uses her journals to help recall actual moments on the hike and every once and awhile the prose became perfunctory and list like–as if she was just copying over a journal entry. But other times it seemed very real and well described.

Not only if you’re into hiking–but if you understand at all the kind of activities where you function on a really basic level (the furthest thing from your mind is how you appear to others) it’s a really good read. Strayed said, “I had this idea before I went that I would always be really engaged in those spiritual aspects in this really overt way. Instead, I was so consumed with the struggle to do things like get water, cook my food, cover those miles, carry my pack, take care of my feet that were horribly blistered, and just endure the weather and the physical pain. It took me out of my head and into my body in a way that was ultimately incredibly important and healing.”

As a believer in the way nature can heal us, I absolutely recommend this book.

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