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Book Review: Wild

How wild it was, to let it be. — Cheryl Strayed

Cheryl Strayed’s national best-seller, Wild, is the true account of a woman who loses everything and risks everything in order to rebuild herself, slowly but surely, after inconceivable loss.

At 22 years old, Strayed lost her mother to cancer.

“My mother’s death brought me to what I think of as my most savage self,” she conveyed in an O Magazine article. “It stripped me of the one thing I needed. My mother was the taproot of my life. And suddenly, I didn’t have that anymore. I had wild love for my mother. I had wild sorrow. And then I went wild. I went wild into my life.”

At 26, Strayed decided to hike the Pacific Crest Trail — alone. Without any previous hiking experience or professional training, she strapped her massive backpack “Monster” onto her back and started the 1,100-mile hike from the Mojave Desert though California, Oregon, and Washington State.

Blistered feet, extreme weather challenges, minimal amounts of food and water, low funds, bears and rattlesnakes were all part of the trek. Strayed’s survival instincts heighten; at points, she’s merely trying to stay alive. She garners fresh perspectives as she continues to walk into the unknown.

She also met other hikers along the journey. These connections, however brief, affected her travels, illuminating unity and love and light.

The hike was a beautiful metaphor. By moving forward, toward her destination, Strayed was confronting her grief — over her mother’s death, over her painful divorce, over a past filled with choices she deeply regretted. She sought self-forgiveness and a sense of clarity; she was hoping to find a way inward to heal and to somehow come out on the other side, with the knowledge and trust that she will be okay.

“Uncertain as I was as I pushed forward, I felt right in my pushing, as if the effort itself meant something,” she wrote in Wild. “That perhaps being amidst the undesecrated beauty of the wilderness meant that I too could be undesecrated, regardless of what I’d lost or what had been taken from me, regardless of the regrettable things I’d done to others or myself or the regrettable things that had been done to me. Of all the things I’d been skeptical about, I didn’t feel skeptical about this: the wilderness had a clarity that included me.”

She’d imagine what it would be like to immerse herself in the ‘real world’ again — a world that included burgers and fries, music, coffee, wine and even drugs.

“Of course, heroin could be had there too,” she wrote in one chapter. “But the thing was, I didn’t want it. Maybe I never really had. I’d finally come to understand what it had been: a yearning for a way out, when actually what I had wanted was a way in.”

“The hike very literally forced me to put one foot in front of the other at a time when emotionally I didn’t think I could do that,” Cheryl said in an Interview Magazine article “You have to keep walking, no matter what. If you don’t, it’s a living death. You’re just standing in one place dying. So I love that the hike gave me that metaphor, a map of how to survive life, to keep moving, to go far.”

And what did this hike teach Strayed? “Acceptance,” she told Oprah. “I had to accept the fact of the hour. The fact of the mile. The fact of the summer. The facts of my life. Over and over again, I found that if I could accept those difficult things, everything else sort of gave way. Each step led me to the next step, the next truth that was going to reveal itself. We all suffer. We all have heartbreak. We all have difficult things. They’re part of life. Realizing that was very profound for me.”

Cheryl Strayed writes effortlessly in a voice that’s exquisitely sincere. Wild is a must-read; an unforgettable memoir that exudes inspiration.

Book Review: Wild

Psych Central's Recommendation:
Worth Your Time! +++

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Lauren Suval

Lauren Suval studied print journalism and psychology at Hofstra University, and she is a writer based in New York. Her work has been featured on Thought Catalog, Catapult Community, and other online publications. Lauren's e-book “Coping With Life’s Clutter” and her latest book, “The Art Of Nostalgia,” a collection of personal essays, can both be found on Amazon. She loves to be followed on Twitter @LaurenSuval.

APA Reference
Suval, L. (2016). Book Review: Wild. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 5, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 17 May 2016
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 17 May 2016
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