Wild Cheryl Strayed

Though we have only made it through the first section, I personally believe that Cheryl Strayed’s Wild has exceeded all of our expectations. While I know that many of us began with the assumption and mindset that Wild was a stereotypical “mom” book, designed for book club meetings (I’ll admit, I was one of those culprits), it has proved to be both a human and literary triumph. I honestly found it difficult to set the novel down and bring myself to write this post, as I wanted to genuinely do nothing but to continue reading.

Nonetheless, we must begin the blog posting process somewhere, and I would like to start by focusing primarily on Strayed’s voice throughout the novel (obviously, your posts can be about whatever you wish). I discovered her style to be remarkably intriguing, as she writes with both humor, bitterness, and a kind of twinging literary aspect that is difficult to grasp. She weaves odd symbols into her words so effortlessly that story feels as though it is fiction, and these scenes were merely placed by a wise author. Instead, these metaphors-the note that her mother’s chest was still warm despite her being dead, the horse her mother had so desperately wanted to ride but could not when she got cancer, the “Volkswagen” sized weight of her backpack that made it a burden even for her to stand up, the bull that is only steered away by “the worlds loudest whistle”-all of these genuinely occurred, and Strayed manages to find her own symbolism within real events. When the novel begins, she states that “the trees were tall, but I was taller.” Right away, the reader is introduced to the kind of novel this will be; heart wrenching, and desperately meaningful. Cheryl stands above the towering trees, set apart, different, but not better. Not special. Only higher.


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17 responses to “Wild Cheryl Strayed

  1. julianasahni

    I’m with Clare, I definitely believed Wild by Cheryl Strayed for to be a “Mom” book. Of course there is nothing wrong with that seeing as I love both moms and books, but I was feeling a bit tentative towards reading it. However, Wild has proved to be an engaging read that keeps me wondering what will happen next.
    Reading this book has made me spend a lot of time wondering what I would do if I were in Cheryl Strayed’s hiking boots. Honestly, I think she is incredibly strong. She had to watch her mother die in front of her, then struggled with addiction and feelings of depression, and was able to get herself back together. So far in this novel, the part that stands out to me the most is Strayed’s strong will to always keep moving on. Whether it is being able to keep her head up somewhat high during things like getting a divorce or an abortion, or literally forcing herself to climb up an actual mountain, Strayed doesn’t give up. That kind of power and self motivation is something I look up to very much.
    I also noted in the book how Cheryl Strayed’s spiritual beliefs changed. At first she prayed all the time in hopes that her mother would get better, and then it progressed to being angry and a loss of belief. I am interested to see how her beliefs may change throughout the novel as she continues her long hike.

  2. I really didn’t want to read “Wild” at first, as you guys can remember. I was too worried it would be another boring biographical book about a person who has no writing talent at all, and just “found herself” and thought that would make her novel great. I was wrong. Strayed mentioned in the beginning of the novel how she was an aspiring writer. I am truly impressed with her work so far, like the rest of you. Her words flow nicely, and though she isn’t a literary genius, she’s definitely good. I think her style is very interesting. When writing, we are always told to show, don’t tell. In “Wild” I have noticed Strayed often does “tell,” but somehow it works. It would be hard to write a biographical novel without “telling,” but I think many authors are very afraid of telling their story instead of showing it. Maybe this is what makes Strayed such a great author. She isn’t afraid to tell us what happens sometimes. She strikes the perfect balance of explanation and imagery, and I very much appreciate that.
    I would also like to bring attention to the fact that Cheryl Strayed did not finish college (Or at least not to our knowledge so far,) yet she managed to bring this wonderful piece of literature into existence. I think that says something about today’s standards that to be successful one has to go to college. A degree did not stop Strayed from not only writing a novel, but hiking hundreds of miles on the Pacific Crest Trail. That is an accomplishment, and one she achieved without a college degree.

  3. I completely agree with all of you! I too found Cheryl Strayed to be a very inspirational character. While I also feared that the book would follow the similar pattern that most biographies do, this one strayed from that often monotonous voice in order to create something that is (judging from the first six chapters) very beautiful!
    I often find that in novels like this, the author forces the theme and message of his or her’s story. Luckily, this book does not do that! Strayed’s story is truly inspirational and speaks for itself. By telling her journey naturally, the reader is left to interpret the messages of strength in the book.
    Like Clare, I was hooked as soon as I read the line, “the trees were tall, but I was taller.” Strayed’s determination shines through in this excerpt for many reasons. Trees, needless to say, are strong and tall that rise above the other organisms in a forest. Walking on the Pacific Crest Trail, Strayed acknowledges her strength and perseverance by using the simile of a tree.
    One of my biggest fears with this book was that it would not enough to analyze because it is a biography and the freedom that one gets with fictional writing is significantly increased as opposed to nonfiction. By using similes and metaphors that tie in with nature, her situation is put into perspective and makes for a more interesting read.

  4. tiffanithomason

    Despite my post being oddly late, I have a lot of things to say about this novel! I am currently very torn about this book. I am not so sure I see the inspirational parts of the novel as you guys do- but rather I see a very odd character with a lot of problems she is running away from. The nightmares that she describes about killing her mother was my first astonishment with her character, but when she went into her history of cheating on her husband I was, to say in the least, amazed and disgusted.
    Now don’t get me wrong, I think that her journey so far on the PCT is remarkable and commendable, but I also feel she should have tried to cope in other ways that didn’t involve her dropping everything and going on this trip. I mean I understand why she did it. She wanted to find herself and love and the meaning of life and that is something we all want! I fantasize about going to college and meeting the love of my life but just because I dream of it and want it doesn’t mean it is the right time in my life for that. I think Strayed is searching for meaning as a lot of people search for love, throwing yourself to extremes in order to find it.
    I must admit I am not yet hooked on this novel. I suppose I’m waiting to feel a connection with Strayed, something that seems quite impossible at this point. I see how it could be a very enjoyable read that a lot of people would enjoy, but at this point I don’t think it presents us with anything more than a messed up character on a hike to lose herself at first in order to find herself. My hope for the rest of this novel is that Strayed gives me a little more than that. A why she is doing this that is more concrete and meaningful than finding herself. Because in order to find yourself you can’t go looking for it, that’s like watching a pot boil or grass grow, you have to run into yourself headfirst. And as for the line at the beginning of the novel about the trees that you all mentioned, I also really liked that line. But the more I find out about Strayed the less I am able to take that line seriously. Now all I can think about as I read that is perhaps she wasn’t actually standing so she was higher than the trees, but rather was smoking pot in her apartment.
    I’m hoping for a redemption of this novel or an explanation of what I am missing!!

  5. julianasahni

    Tiffani, I totally agree with you. So far, I have found the beginning of Wild to be more engaging than the middle section. I previously held myself back from saying this because I did not want to sound like a terrible person but, something about Cheryl Strayed annoys me.
    There is no way to phrase this without making it sound as if I am invalidating her suffering. Strayed has been through hell and back and demonstrates great strength, but her narration throughout the novel has constantly been bothering me. She often feels over dramatic to me, there have been many times when I would read a passage (usually a flashback) and had to look up and think “Okay, this isn’t a poorly written dystopian YA novel, calm down Cheryl”. I would provide a quote from the book but I don’t know how school appropriate it would be.
    The fact that I have feelings of annoyance and also indifference towards Strayed is probably one of the reasons I am not this book’s number one fan.
    Then again, I may just be a truly awful human being!

    All of that being said, I do not necessarily hate this novel. The parts I have found most interesting are when the obstacles Strayed faces on the trail parallel the struggles she has faced before deciding to hike the PCT. She has had to learn to climb over things in order to keep moving forward despite getting hurt in the process and face various animals in the wilderness. I felt as if these bumps in the road were representative of how Cheryl Strayed had to overcome grief, depression, and addiction before facing these roadblocks in nature. Strayed often has thoughts of returning home rather than finishing her hike, but as stated previously, she never gives up. It’s a pretty cliché statement to make, but the hardest things Cheryl Strayed must face on the Pacific Crest Trail are her own thoughts.

  6. clareogara

    I can’t help but agree with Juliana as we read through this middle section. Admittedly, Cheryl Strayed’s voice is seemingly more “over dramatic” that it was before. Like you said Juliana, it may be simply that I have no understanding of empathy (I am a teenager, after all), but something about her words appeared not so much “offish” as being rather too repetitive, with her whole cliched, “I’m here to walk myself into the person my mother wanted me to be” statement that kept her hiking. That much I did find irritating. However, one of my favorite aspects of this novel remains Strayed experience of the PCT itself. There is more action featured in these scenes than the flashbacks, and the humor she manages to sneak into many of them (notably, her desire to be a “Badass amazonian queen” while hiking) even had me smiling. I often would dread the points where she transitioned into a flashback, because honestly I wanted nothing but to know more of her adventures while hiking, particularly the people she encounters; be it other hikers, or merely strangers she encountered when picking up boxes.

    While I agree with the annoyance that Strayed’s voice causes for aspects of the novel, I still find many of her image-driven details throughout the novel to be fascinating. I love the way she writes descriptions, particularly of those on the PCT. While her personal thoughts (and I sound really terrible when I say this) sometimes get in the way, she makes you feel as if you are there with her, which is a talent for an author. The few times in which she is merely on the trail are some of the most enjoyable aspects of the piece.

    • Sierra Kelly

      I agree with Clare, in the respect that Strayed describes her trail experiences with a great talent, that does allow the reader to easily picture her surroundings. I don’t want to completely pass judgement on the novel, as I enjoy reading it, and no doubt Strayed is talented, but there’s something about her, or her voice that irks me. I will start to get very into a scene, when all of the sudden I’m distracted by a conventions choice that makes the author seem like she’s a pretentious 9th grader. For example, when Strayed chooses to start a sentence like “Lady who made it possible for her to not inl

    • Sierra Kelly

      I agree with Clare, in the respect that Strayed describes her trail experiences with a great talent, that does allow the reader to easily picture her surroundings. I don’t want to completely pass judgement on the novel, as I enjoy reading it, and no doubt Strayed is talented, but there’s something about her, or her voice that irks me. I will start to get very into a scene, when all of the sudden I’m distracted by a conventions choice that makes the author seem like she’s a pretentious 9th grader. For example, when Strayed chooses to start a sentence like “Lady who made it possible for her not only to walk away from my father, but also to keep going” (157). The first time I read that sentence, I was completely confused. Without the sentence before it, it almost makes no sense. For some reason, sentences like those really bother me, and I can’t help thinking: couldn’t you have put that with the sentence before using a comma? Or at least added “it was” to the beginning of the sentence? The unfortunate thing about me being so heavily bothered by that is that I’m pretty darn sure I write sentences like that. Now that I’ve seen them in action, though, I don’t think I will again.
      Also, I feel like Strayed’s writing is a very cliche version of good writing. She uses lots of imagery and adjectives, and she makes the reader feel, but for me I just feel annoyed. I know I am being overly critical, but all of the adjectives in the book are overused and tired. If I had a dollar for every time Strayed used the word “numbly,” I think I’d have a lot of dollars. I think she could take a page from Clare’s book of fancy and fun words. Although the author, despite her boring word choice still manages to make the scenery come alive, however I often find that it’s less alive and more of a zombie-like setting.
      I don’t want to hate on “Wild” too much. Strayed has enough to carry along the PCT without all my criticism. Plus, I find it an easy read, which is a very nice break from “Confederacy of Dunces,” which took about an hour a chapter. I feel like I should pour some Martinelli’s and sit by the pool while reading it. Maybe I will, who knows.

  7. clareogara

    As much as I wish I could deny it, I don’t believe that “Wild” ended in any way that I did not expect. After comparing the blue color of Crater Lake to the eyes of her mother, all that really happens is Cheryl reaching the Bridge of the Gods, Having an emotional moment in which she reflects upon her trek, and buying herself an ice cream cone.
    Wow. So surprising.
    While the novel itself wasn’t terribly unexpected, however, I must admit that I really did enjoy reading “Wild.” Maybe I’m just a sucker for cliches (I am), but I did have FUN as I read, far more so than with A Confederacy of Dunces. I think Cheryl’s story is something that should be observed in a more poetic form, rather than a novel one. In poetry, you kind of (at least in my view) have to accept the dramatic qualities of it, and enjoy it for the language, rather than the cliches that all-too-often are associated with poetry. Which I think is completely fine, trust me, I love poetry. I love displaying my dramatic, cliched side through it; it’s so much fun! I found that the easiest way for me to read Strayed’s novel with an open mind was by reading it like I would that of a massive poem, which, considering how much I love analyzing poetry, was actual somewhat fun. For instance, the last line of the novel “how wild it was, to let it be” sounds kind of like a over-dramatic pun (because it kind of is), but I found that by observing it as I would the ending to a large poem, I thought it was actually kind of beautiful, and to a degree, even inspirational. She just lets this, crazy, wild story of her’s literally “be.” She doesn’t bother with it. She allows it to live with her. By using this technique for approaching the novel, I felt I could understand Strayed experience somewhat easier.

  8. julianasahni

    In all honesty, I disagree with Clare. I am usually not a fan of clichés, and this book was no exception. I thought that the problem was not Cheryl Strayed herself, but her writing style. Or maybe I didn’t like it because I had high expectations for this book because of what many others have said. I just thought it was overrated! This could be because I’m the type of person who says, and I quote “I don’t know who came up with the idea that one will feel superior to everyone if their music taste is super obscure, but they are absolutely right”. Maybe Wild was too “mainstream” for me.

    As I said, Wild has not been my favorite read. That being said, I still have been able to find my favorite parts of the book.
    Though this is a tale of self discovery and often loneliness, Strayed was not alone. She encountered many strangers and I was always impressed by the acts of kindness they displayed. She was given company, food, and rides where she needed to go. I think it’s easy for people to get caught up in the bad things humans do because that’s all we ever see in the media, so it was refreshing to see such genuine niceness. I think it was important that Strayed met up with other people on her journey, especially when she set out to hike alone. Many individuals go to “find themselves” (or whatever) and isolate themselves instead. It was important that Cheryl Strayed found hope from others, because as Lev Vygotsky said “through others we become ourselves”.

    • sierrajkelly

      I’m with Juliana, in that Strayed’s writing style was a bit much (or not enough) for me. As I mentioned earlier, the word choice wasn’t the best. However, I’m also a bit of a sucker for clichés. Wild was a break for me. It was easy, and I, like Clare, enjoyed it more than I’d like to admit. I do have lots of judgement for it, though, but many of it is simply me overthinking as an afterthought. It’s funny, because as I’m writing this, I’m driving by Mount Shasta, one of the many peaks mentioned in Wild. It’s a truly magnificent, majestic sight. I feel like Strayed wasn’t doing Shasta, nor any of the other mountains justice with her cliche adjectives.
      The problem with Reading Wild, is that unlike with Confederacy of Dunces, we cannot pick apart the characters as much as I like to. Cheryl Strayed is a person, who included real people in her novel. I can’t analyze her without judging her as a human being. Although, I think that by publishing a book like this, an author puts herself out in a risky way. Thousands of people will judge Strayed as a person from reading her book, but despite the negative thoughts we might get from the reoccurring drug/sex theme, I think the courage it took to do what Cheryl Strayed did lets us hang on to a little bit of respect for her. I just worry about what her kids might think, reading this in later years, but Strayed knows that they one day will read it, and hopefully they will only see their mother as a braver person for doing what she did, instead of the broken one that decided to hike the PCT. I know my views of the author have been shaped constantly through the novel, and I still don’t know how I’m feeling about her, really. To ascertain that, I would probably have to do a fairly indepth character analysis, and that would be quite the Wild ride.

  9. kritirastogi

    Like Juliana, I also had high hopes for Wild. I think that in addition to what I had heard about the book, the movie had high reviews also so I automatically expected more from it. Similarly to you guys, I do not think that Strayed’s character was what was more annoying about this book. Her perseverence throughout her mental and physical journey clearly show her determination, which I find highly admirable. However, while her story itself was beautiful, she told it in the way that seemed slightly forced and cliche. In this way, I do not think that she fully did her story justice. I have found that a beautifully written piece of writing with a poor plot is usually more interesting to read than a poorly written piece of writing with an interesting plot. Wild was not necessarily written badly, but as you have all stated, her cliches did make it rather hard to read and appreciate fully.

    Although this is not the final review, I can’t help but reflect on this novel as a whole, having finally finished it. The journey that Strayed took us on was a very poignant one and shows that one often needs to reflect on herself after terrible events have occurred in her life. I also enjoyed the ending of the book because while it wasn’t necessarily unique, it did provide adequate closure for Strayed’s novel.

  10. tiffanithomason

    I am no longer torn about this novel, I believe I simply hate it. Yes, I know hate is a strong word- that is why I am using it. Two thirds of the way through this novel feels like a much bigger struggle than when Cheryl hiked the PCT, with much more pain involved. My first issue with the novel is that Cheryl presents herself as if she is an idiot. Like you said Sierra, her word choice was terrible. Cheryl could have made up for a majority of her idiotic acts by doing nothing more than choosing better words, because it is impossible to truly believe an intellectual person is stupid. I’m sure we all have tried to proclaim smart humans to be idiot, but we must admit it is very hard to do.

    My second main problem with this novel so far is the amount of potential it has, that Cheryl doesn’t bother using. Any spectacular journey can be portrayed with beauty and serenity, and even as if it were miraculous. I feel like this trip to Cheryl is more of a time to make a fool of herself. I mean, you’d think she would understand by now that humans need water to live. I thin there is so much more she could have focused on with her trip. The way the stars felt when that was all she could see above her. The way it felt to burn her books, because I feel like that would be hard, but perhaps to her it was easy. We can’t know! To know how she felt during times like this would be to give us a clue about her character other than that she is an idiot. I’m hoping to finish the book tonight and come give my perspective on the final section, and all I can hope is that Cheryl says something, anything, that doesn’t make me want to burn the book.

  11. clareogara

    Wild, Cheryl Strayed, 8/10

    By the time she was 26, Cheryl Strayed felt she had thrown her life away. After loosing her much-beloved mother to cancer, she’d fallen into the midst of a heroin addiction and vigorous sex with strange, unknown men. She’d assisted in obliterating her previously content marriage, and forced herself to abort a child. Finding her sanity drowning within the tides of depression over her mother’s death, Strayed turned her sights to the 4,265 kilometer stretch known as the Pacific Crest Trail. Determined to walk herself into the woman her mother knew her to be, she plans to hike the only path connecting Mexico to Canada, while facing both the physical and mental demons she must battle along the way. “Wild” depicts the true story of Cheryl Strayed efforts toward self restoration, and coming to terms with her immense loss.

    “Wild” was somewhat of an easy read, in my opinion. While Strayed’s voice was over-dramatic and stereotyped, I’m not surprised that this novel has received its high praise. Often in the novel industry, “easy” is what sells, as it can attract more audiences; a reality that “Wild” defiantly takes advantage of. It’s a simple, fun novel, with just the right level of emotion as to not tun readers away. Her words don’t strain, yet they relate heavily to the popular topic of “finding oneself through impulsive actions.” “Wild” is both entertaining and inspirational, despite the relatively over-used language (how many times does she use he word numbly, Sierra?). It’s not necessarily analytic, but it’s also not “A Confederacy of Dunces” either. It addresses genuine problems in a genuine form, and there’s nothing wrong with that. In my opinion, “Wild” was like that of the “Thor” movies; just a quick piece that happily wastes a few hours of your time (although most of that period is spent whispering, as Juliana said, “calm down Cheryl”), but doesn’t challenge the reader in any way. I’m satisfied with it, but the novel wasn’t necessarily the “top notch” literature that all too many of “Wild’s” reviews are claiming it to be.

    “Wild” is a novel that could be recommenced to an increasingly large number of people. Though, it’s certainly more favorable to mature audiences (a few of scenes are quite vulgar), and more preferably women, as the piece is written from that perspective and obviously more relate able in the female view. However, that aside, “Wild” is a book I could easily advise to anybody; simple, easy, entertaining, perfect for anyone merely wanting to pass time in a satisfying way.

  12. tiffanithomason

    I did it. I hiked- finished this novel! I must say the ending was not what I suspected. I felt like she was actually trying to be profound- trying being the operative word. Now, I must confess, it is true that I normally hate novels like this one, but I went into this book with an open heart, determined to not judge it. But when an author at the end of the novel makes a last ditch attempt to be meaningful when there was nothing of meaning in the novel, I find it hard to not judge. And on top of that was the fact that she used her friends death to deepen the meaning of the novel. I felt terrible reading that he had died, and I actually teared up! But it wasn’t fair of her to use that fact to give a novel an extra… oomph. So her ending made me mad more than anything. Mad that I spent all this time on the novel. Mad I had bought this novel. Mad that I tried to like it.
    But I would like to take a look at something other than my hatred for this novel for a second. While I may have hated this end, I think for a lot of people it would make sense. It was an end that ties everything up it seemed. No further mystery to be solved, no more self actualization needed in Strayed. Everything was fine. People love security and they need it, and that’s what this ending gave. Security, Comfort. A hope for a better future. The knowledge that no matter where you come from everything will be better. Well, if you take a hike.

  13. 6/10 stars for Wild, by Cheryl Strayed.
    Wild was an enigma. This was a seemingly inspiring tale about a young woman who has gone through the death of her mother among other things, deciding to hike through the harsh wilderness to find herself. On the way, she meet friends, gets drunk, eats beef jerky, gets covered in frogs, and discusses her life problems with an internal monologue. And that’s not even half of it. Wild took off sprinting, and I was quite engaged at the beginning. I enjoyed the writing for a while, most likely because it was a mental vacation for me. Eventually, as Strayed ascended the many mountains along her journey, my enjoyment of the novel started to descend. Her writing may be easy to read, a mental vacation of sorts, but it is mainly that way because it is the equivalent of a 15 year old’s writing. Her adjectives cannot do justice to the awe inspiring things she encounters through her journey. Her bland, repetitive language takes what could be a humorous, inspiting novel into a chore of a read. Luckily, due to its simplicity, I was able to finish that chore quickly. Sadly, there is not much that can be critiqued about the book beside the writing. To judge plot and characters would be a bit harsh, considering the biographical nature of the novel. Hoever, I will say this. She wrote her fellow hikers fairly well. I do not know the,, and therefore cannot exactly say that the character descriptions were spot on, however I can say that judging from their appearances in the book, I would want to be friends with them. Perhaps I would like to meet Cheryl Strayed, as well. She may not be the best writer, and her book is no literary masterpiece. Also I find it slightly disturbing how she ate her mother’s bones. Despite this, she does seem to be brave. Hopefully she has grown out of the commonly mentioned predilection towards sex and drugs, and with that maturity has blossomed into a wise person. I would give this book a lower rating, but I honestly feel that would be harsh. I truly enjoyed the beginning, and I like the character Greg. There were definitely some redeeming qualities about the book, and I know there was one point where I felt sorry and sympathetic for Strayed, which is good. Despite a lower than average rating, I recommend reading Wild. I think it may be beneficial. Maybe because it could stand as a how not to write a novel, or because it can help one to better understand a struggling person. Either way, it can’t do much harm, although Tiffani may beg to differ.

  14. julianasahni

    I would rate Wild a 7/10. It was an easy read, but not necessarily one that felt super engaging to me. I believe that part of it was because I did not even like Cheryl Strayed in all honesty. My attitude towards the book was more like “oooooh my god Cheryl, your experience is one shared by many but you just managed to make money off of it”. I have said this in pretty much all of my blog posts, but I sound like a terrible person! There is no way for me to review this novel without sounding like I don’t have the capacity to empathize with others. I promise I’m hugely empathetic, just not towards Cheryl Strayed apparently.
    I felt it hard to root for someone that I did not really want to know more about, so I often I sat there wondering if Strayed could have chosen to find herself in a way that did not take as long. Although I was not a fan,I can see why the book would be appealing to others.
    The book was emotional, dramatic, and even weirdly gross at some points (for example when Strayed decided to eat her mothers bones and ashes. I really wanted it to be a metaphor). The book was unapologetically honest and open (Cheryl Strayed did not hold back when telling of one occasion featuring a man, a beach at night, and some honey). The ending was a bit cliché but as we’ve heard from Clare, people love clichés.
    I’m not sure I would recommend Wild to a ton of people, however I’m glad Cheryl Strayed found peace within herself, partially because there would probably be another book if she hadn’t.

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