Wild Ride

Almost finished reading Wild by Cheryl Strayed and it's very difficult to read, or not very difficult, just that I find myself skimming the text somewhat, partially because it's about her starving or needing water or her feet throbbing and her toenails falling off in her too-small boots or memories of her dead mother or her heroin-shooting days, interspersed with her getting lost on the trail or almost lost on the trial and nearly stepping on rattlesnakes three different times so far.  It's hard to relax when you're reading something where potential danger lurks at every turn in the path.

And then there's the fact that her choice to take this solo trek on the Pacific Coast Trail is so far from anything I would ever consider doing that I find it hard to relate or sympathize with her difficulties. I don't even like to hike for an hour, let alone eight weeks in the wilderness with a pack on your back that weighs as much as you do. I've only been camping a handful of times, and never joyously or because it was my idea. It was always some nature-y boyfriend who wanted to get back to the land and not shave for two days.  I do see the value, but I like to see if from afar, with indoor plumbing within five steps. Perhaps that makes me shallow or lazy, but I don't really believe that. I think the experience is probably good for you, and builds confidence, but I also think it's something only a certain class of people can get into for any length of time. Like, you don't hear of a lot of inner city kids planning to spend $1,000 on gear from the American Eagle Outfitter Camping Store so they can find themselves in the woods.

But the writing is wonderful and it's unsentimental (one of my main qualifications for good writing, especially if you're writing a coming-of-age type story); she's never self-pitying and is often self-hating.
It's also a page turner, because she's faced with her own mortality every day, because she could die in all of these unpleasant ways at pretty much any time. She could get attacked by a bear or a coyote or she could plummet off the side of the mountain or freeze to death in the snow or be struck down by heat stroke or run out of water or lose her pack and starve to death or wander off the trail and get lost forever or be attacked by the ne'er do well townsmen or fall down and cut her head. So far, she hasn't waxed poetic about the overall insaneness of the trip--the fact that she's risking her life every second, and I guess that's kind of the point--she has a self-destructive streak from losing her mom and from never knowing her dad and from failing in her marriage and feeling essentially alone in the world. And we know that it turns out okay because she's writing the book, she obviously didn't die. And it doesn't seem like she will be gang-raped by hippies, though that's another danger because she's a woman alone and very vulnerable.

I would perhaps find the narrative a little less annoying if she had given herself more than twenty dollars to pick up at every out post. I mean, she's constantly running out of money to buy food and drinks. Almost the moment she has her money in hand, she buys two cheeseburgers and a milkshake and is left with sixty-five cents until she gets to the next PO Box which requires her to first hike another 156 miles.

But you should still read the book--she's good and honest and introspective and it's not her fault that Reese Witherspoon is currently filming the movie version of the book.


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