My Favorite December 2012 Book: Wild by Cheryl Strayed

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Reviewing this book as my first on this blog is appropriate because it is one of the reasons I started this blog. Reading Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Coast Trail helped push me one step further towards figuring out where the heck to go next.

There are books and authors that simply speak to you, who call to you, who strangely seem like they know you. Their story could be your story. Their life is your life, or so like your life that you feel a kinship. The details may differ, the locations and the faces possess different names, but your roots shoot from the same source. Your blood runs the same way.

Reading Wild was an important catalyst in my trying, trying, trying to get onto a new path. No, not a thousand mile hike along the Pacific Coast. But a hike, a leap, new soil beneath my boots. So, on a personal level I recommend this book as possibly greatly inspiring. Perhaps transformational.

Cheryl’s story touched me deeply. I am inspired by her honesty, but moreso by the poetry of her honesty. Even while facing brutal truths, her force is gentle. Even as she shares raw details of her life, there is a sort of peace underlying each sentence. The peace of writing from the other side of the life recounted in Wild –Yes. But deeper than that, my suspicion is that there was always a calm in Cheryl that led her to live the events she chronicles. More, this inner strength allowed her to experience and drive her story like few would.

This is why Strayed’s writing is so inviting. We see a woman who struggled mightily. But equally, we see a hero. From the first we recognize a woman who has a fighting chance because she’s got tools. She’s got powers. This is made clear in the quote her mother used to say that runs like a bright ribbon through the narrative: “We aren’t poor because we are rich in love.” If being loved deeply and knowing how to love is not a super-power, I don’t know what is.

Strayed’s story illuminates how she learned that every turn was dear in what it took from her but precious in where it got her. Even from the first page, a clear understanding hums between the lines of how she cherishes the expenses of living, no matter how painful. That wisdom, that ability to love the journey underlies all of her narrative to an inspirational level. By the end of the book we see a woman who has learned to see her journey as heroic. Her boots may have been too small, her heart may have been in bits, she may have wished to howl feverishly at the moon. Even so, each bloody, frantic, chaotic step was worthwhile, as worthwhile as the rare beautiful moments.

For anyone wishing to undergo a journey or seeking transformation, no matter how small, I recommend this book. Every step of Strayed’s passage from childhood to orphaned, to tailspin then fly-by-the-wind thousands of miles hike up the Pacific Coast, to final reward of a loving, comfortable family life, every step was compelling. Every hard-earned milepost that each chapter takes us through offers insight. I read Wild with the feeling that Strayed wrote this book as a gift from someone who knows what the edge looks like. She almost cast herself over it. She came close to tripping past it. She even slept there for a time, half of her body touching cold and unforgiving dirt, the other half hung weightless into the abyss. But Strayed found a way to claw herself towards a straighter, sweeter horizon. She wants us to know that if ever we find ourselves at that borderland of despair, we too can turn around and start back on the road to peace. What makes this book exceptional is that after reading this Wild journey, the journey of an every-woman, a person without special friends or privilege, we believe her. I see that hero in myself.

… Do you?

Cheryl’s homepage is: http://www.cherylstrayed.com and a list of places to buy it http://www.cherylstrayed.com/wild_108676.htm.

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