Review: Wild


Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail
By Cheryl Strayed
(Knopf, Hardcover, 9780307592736, March 2012, 336pp.)

The Short of It:

Disappointing and at times utterly ridiculous. I had no idea that the adventure I’d get would include a sexcapade in the forest. Apparently “WILD” has multiple meanings.

The Rest of It:

This is not one of those times where the hype ruined it for me because I picked it up before Oprah selected it for her book club and I went into it with a completely open mind. BUT…it was a complete fail for me.

After losing her mother to cancer and divorcing what seemed like the most supportive husband ever, Strayed decides to hike the Pacific Crest Trail. The idea comes to her after seeing a book on the subject and since she doesn’t seem to have anything else going for her, why not? She is essentially homeless as she can’t figure out where she wants to settle down and without a job to tie her down, the decision is easy. She’s in her mid-twenties and healthy, it can’t possibly be that hard, right?

It’s not unheard of for a non-hiker to hike a trail like this one. Lots of people find closure and peace of mind on the trail. Stripping yourself down to the bare essentials, pain and hunger all have their place in clearing away the cobwebs so Strayed’s decision to hike the trail, was not that unusual. However, I expected her story to be about her coming to terms with her mother’s death. After all, that is why she set out for the trail in the first place. Instead, what I got is a silly book about a woman who is just a little too full of herself.

Here are just a few reasons why this book falls into the ridiculous category:

  • The contents of her pack included an entire package of condoms. Really?
  • Her decision to hike alone. Really not safe and in fact, stupid.
  • Her care packages to herself  included sexy lingerie for her potential hook-ups with strange men. Okay, she said it was for her to feel good but when you pack an entire box of condoms you’ve got to to wonder.
  • The possibility of sex on the trail is of great concern to her. Not her shredded feet or the lack of boots that fit.
  • The actual sex that takes place and her getting a kick out of being able to attract smelly men on the trail. Ick.
  • Ahem, the drug use. She was a hard-core heroin user before the trip and if my memory is correct, manages to find drugs at least once while taking a break from the trail.

Clearly, there was not enough hiking and true self discovery for me to take this book seriously. It veered off into numerous directions and although I felt for her at the beginning of her story, I had lost all respect for her by the end of the book. The writing is choppy and I didn’t care for her self-absorbed nature. Every thought seemed to turn towards sex or the possibility of sex or had something to do with her looks. I got tired of it. You are hiking and haven’t showered in days. How can you be concerned with your looks? Seems like more important things should have been a concern.

I can’t recommend this one. It’s not what it’s described to be. I don’t feel that she really got the closure she needed and it angers me to see it flying off the shelves just because Oprah picked it for her club.

Trust me, it’s not all that.

Note from Ti: I checked out some of the interview footage on Oprah’s site and Strayed is not at all the person she appears to be in the book. Maybe it’s just hard to write about yourself. Maybe it’s a case of horrible editing. Needless to say, if she stumbles across this review I hope she doesn’t throw a boot at me.

Source: Borrowed
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

73 thoughts on “Review: Wild”

  1. Hi Ti!
    When we were in high school and had a break up, the norm was try to show to the world that you were uber cool, by pretending to sleep around or smoke, even though you were actually too chicken to actually do those things 🙂
    Maybe that’s what happened to Cheryl Srayed. Maybe she has developed a huge need to show the world what a wild gal she is… no wonder the attempt comes off as fake 🙂
    Lovely review! do visit!

    1. This will sound harsh but maybe it was written at the recommendation of her shrink. Writing has always been cathartic in nature, but to build yourself up in it… to make yourself some hot to trot trail blazer… I guess that could help with esteem. Maybe.

    1. Yeah, I think the big issue for me is that I didn’t care for how she portrayed herself in the book. She sounded perfectly likable in the Oprah interview so I have to wonder why she came off so self absorbed in the book.

      1. she is self absorbed the step father never turned his back on bobbies kids they turn on him she killed the horse cuz he was not here for her grand arrival and then left a note on the table he was out there the day after xmas digging a hole for a 800 lb horse threw 70 inches of snow and frost to bury the horse he loved it was all he had left of her mother and the table they carved in was a spool her mother could board her horses but could not by a table and chairs for her kids she has never come home and never talks to her step dad and her real dad is still alive and the rape thing her grand father was never charge with that she just put it out there and if he did do that and her mother did nothing about it I am the step mother to her I started dateding her step dad in sept of 91 I moved in may of 92 I moved out in 93 married him in 94 and did not move back in till 97 I take care of her mothers grave while she writes lies about me and her step dad

  2. I’m so glad I passed this one over when I saw it for review! Enough said after reading your issues with the book. I’m guessing it would bug me even more since I lost M to cancer and spend every free moment on the trail running… HA!

    1. With you being a runner and having suffered a similar loss, you’d find her story to be trivial at best. Of course the death of her mother is not trivial and I feel for anyone who has suffered such a loss but I don’t feel that she gained closure and I didn’t know her any better at the end of the book, than I did at the beginning

  3. LOL! Your review had me laughing so much, because I couldn’t believe how ridiculous this book sounded – OMG! I kindled this one after I’d read a great review of it in the newspaper and now I’m wishing I hadn’t. I read Oprah’s interview with her in my mag (I subscribe to O mag – can’t help it) and from what I gathered it sounded like a different book than what you wrote about it. CRAZY! This woman is crazy if her biggest concern is sex and not being warm or having comfortable hiking boots. Actually now that I think about, I guess I do want to the book and have a good laugh.Can’t believe all the hype over this book. And I can’t believe how different she sounds compared to her book – talk about split personality. Thanks for the honest review!

    1. I just don’t think it’s what it is advertised to be. I wanted a journey of self discovery and closure. She might have gotten that, but you have to dig to find it.

  4. I’m sorry this book was disappointing, Ti, since I know you were really looking forward to reading it. The woman in the book sounds kind of a mess and also sounds like she’s hiking the trail to find various men to have sex with. The idea makes my skin crawl

    I’ve read a variety of reviews and articles about this book and the author and I’ve ended up with a lot of confusion about the kind of person she is…on the one hand she’s someone who got her life on track and figured out who she is and what she wants but then there’s also a woman who is.more immature and self-centered.

    It drives me nuts that so many people read a book simply because Oprah says it’s worth reading. It’s kind of bizarre. I used to think it was great that she encouraged people to read but now I wonder why it takes Oprah’s okay for so many people to read.

    1. I doubt her intention was to hook up with men, but you’ve got to wonder when she decided to pack all those condoms and why those condoms weighed so heavily on her mind. I’d be more concerned with safety, food and water. Oprah is wonderful at what she does, but so often I am angered by the marketing of her book picks. As soon as she stamps that “O” on the cover it’s golden and I just don’t like that kind of power or influence.

  5. I was excited about this book because it’s a memoir and because of the hype, but after reading your thoughts and Fizzy Jill’s thoughts, I think I’ll skip it.

  6. I was excited about this one as well…and the proverbial “everybody” is talking about it. I was completely under the impression that this book was about her self discovery through being alone on the trail and learning to depend on herself, coming to terms with her mother’s death, etc. A box of condoms??? Seriously. I would have been sooo mad had I read this. Don’t even try to tell me that sex in the woods with strangers helps you find yourself. No thanks. 😛

    1. I think you hit the nail on the head. She didn’t seem able to stand on her own. She seemed to be looking for acceptance and that bothered me. The drug use bothered me too. I would have respected her more had she completely shunned it after hitting the trail, but she still considers it while hiking and there is one instance that I can remember where she indulges in drugs while on the trail. Details are sketchy because as soon as I saw it, I skimmed over it.

  7. Memoirs are such a tricky business. It’s so easy to turn off the reader, so I haven’t had all the best luck with them. When I saw your “the short of it” in my reader, I had to click over. Too funny.

    With memoir, if it doesn’t feel genuine, or if there is no real point to it other than “hey, I did this thing” I get super annoyed. I try to be open because I know everyone’s perspectives are different, but here’s the thing: If I can’t relate to you in just about any way, it’s not going to work for me.

  8. Yikes, I must say I didn’t expect such a negative review of this book. I love Cheryl Strayed from reading her Dear Sugar columns (which Amy, from My Friend Amy, introduced me to), so I was really looking forward to reading this book. I didn’t read your whole review because I still want to read the book, but I do feel forewarned! (I do hope I like it more than you did!)

          1. Sorry, what I meant was that I recommend you check out her Dear Sugar columns. However, I saw on Jenners’ blog that you did and weren’t too keen… (I’m a big fan of advice columns for some reason — I read Dear Abby a bit compulsively!) I haven’t read Wild yet and probably won’t for a while — I’m not going to buy it in hardcover and who knows if my library will ever get it — but when I do read it, I’ll let you know what I think! 🙂

      1. taking advice from her is like taking advice from manson 23 years of her out the writing bad things about the only man that loved her mom and can still cry for her I know this I am his wife

  9. Seriously, sex on the trail, and drug use? I can see why this was not your cuppa, and totally would have lost respect for the author after having read all that. It seems crazily planned and improbable, and it’s a wonder that she didn’t get herself hurt or killed by going off alone in search of pleasure on the trail. I can’t say that I would enjoy this one, and really, Oprah should be a little embarrassed to have shared this one with the world. Very detailed and intriguing review today, but I don’t think I will be reading this one!

    1. I wanted to give the author a fair shake since I typically like these types of memoirs, but this one was just ridiculous! Perhaps, it’s because I could not relate to her at all. She came off as needy even though she was out on her own tackling this big thing. I can’t stand needy.

  10. I thought it sounded like an awesome experience memoir when I saw it advertised. I picked it up from the library but didn’t have time to read it and turned it back in. I think those kind of shocking behavior memoirs can be good if they are done well (with the proper humility and sense of humor). I’m not that disappointed that I missed this one.

    1. I think it’s strange that more bloggers haven’t reviewed it. With all the buzz you’d think more would be reading it. Unless they felt the same way of course.

  11. I was looking forward to your review about this. I thought the book sounded strange when I first heard of this, like why would someone do that, LOL. But then it got so much praise. I’m glad I read yours and Jill’s reviews before I picked this one up. And how interesting that she doesn’t appear like that in the footage you watched? That’s really interesting… so either she juiced up the book for marketing types of reasons or she just presents really well in person? 😉

    1. Reese Witherspoon snapped up the rights to it and hopes to star in the movie. Ugh! Love Reese, but it will be interesting to see her take on it.

  12. I had a friend who kept trying to tell me this book was amazing, but I knew to stay away. And you have completely made me feel comfortable in that decision.

  13. I love your “The Short of It”. That does sum it up. I have seen many good reviews, but have not been won over. I am not much of a travel/nature girl. There is a YA book, Wanderlove, that just didn’t do it for me for similar reasons. Thank you for your review.

  14. I trust your judgment but I think I will go ahead & read it to see if it’s that bad (since I have a copy). Quite a disappointment to hear. You think: Oh a memoir with hiking & rediscovery … you want it to be good & then it’s out turns out not, blah. I guess it doesnt sound like Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods … but I will see what I think …

    1. I thought about Bryson’s book numerous times. I didn’t expect this book to be like that one, but I kept wishing it was. Do read it. We can discuss it after.

  15. Your review seems to echo why I didn’t want to read this book. I’m not a hiker, or an outdoor lover at all, and this book had little appeal to me (as memoirs of this sort rarely do.) No the buzz has me intrigued enough to read it, even though I expect my thoughts will mirror yours. Why? Because I’m curious enough.

    1. Let’s hope that wasn’t her original intent. If so, she could have made it more of a how-to book. Would have sold just as many copies and given 50 Shades of Grey a run for the money.

  16. OH boy. I was just about to write my review but will have to distance myself a bit from this – not that your thoughts aren’t accurate nor that I didn’t find her silly – but most of my book club is LOVING it and think she was SO BRAVE. I had you and Fizzy telling me to watch for sex in the woods and so I rather was disappointed she didn’t get it one more.

  17. oh edit that! I meant to say ‘get it ON more’. not one more. Really, except for thinking about it, she was almost chaste. ok, chaste ain’t the word I mean, either.

    1. Oh man, I can’t wait to read your review. Even without the sex mentions…it just wasn’t well written in my opinion.

  18. I’m reading reviews that either love this one or hate it. I might have been talked into it until I read your review but I’m afraid I couldn’t get past the stupidity and how important having sex during that time seemed to be.

  19. It’s always hard to post a negative review. But that is what our book blogging is all about. Your followers appreciate your honesty. And mostly they follow you because they trust you and like what you like. Good job.

    1. I never enjoy posting negative reviews but I’ve go to be honest. Thank you for your kind words. I always appreciate your comments but that one put a big smile on my face.

  20. Ugh. This does not sound like a book I would like. Not just based on your thoughts on it, but admittedly you make it more a certainity I’ll skip it.

  21. OK. Wow. I just finished this (after reading her Tiny Beautiful Things first) and I didn’t have the same feeling at all. Perhaps reading the other book first (which makes her come off like a much more grounded and wonderful person) made a difference. I had gotten bits and pieces of her life from that book and wanted to read this one. I thought she came off like a lost person in 20s … confused, stupid, mixed-up, oversexed and broken. I remember being that person at one point in my life (though no heroin or easy sex for me) so I didn’t get annoyed by her like you did. I remember reading reviews from people that thought this was a “hiking” book — which is definitely isn’t (my dad would have been PISSED at her lack of preparedness) — and I had to laugh after reading it. I’m sure hard-core hikers were even more annoyed than you were.

    1. I think the folks that hated it, did so because they could not relate to her on any level. I know I couldn’t. I also know that I am in the minority. After seeing her interviews, I felt as if  I was seeing two different women. I’m not sure but she wrote Wild much later in life, right? Not right after the trip. 

  22. I started this, didn’t get too far into it before taking a break to read my book club read and then Gone Girl, and now preparing to go back to it. I didn’t read your review in its entirety since I’m not done with the book but get the gist that you didn’t like it. I’ll come back when I’m done to either agree or dispute your assessment 😉

  23. Oh no, I picked up this book since it sounded like a good read but from everything you’ve described here I can tell I won’t think much of it either. Seriously the last thing I’d be taking on a hike is condoms and sexy lingerie. If you’re trying to find yourself, you won’t by picking Uo strange and smelly men. I’m disappointed that the description of the book and what Oprah says about it doesn’t seem to match up with the contents.

  24. I LOVED this post!! Box of condoms and you’re hiking in the wild??? Hmmmmm…who was she going to be having sex with?? I’m so glad that you let it rip on this one and I for one will not be reading it. And, I hope the boot doesn’t come anywhere near you! LOL! 😀

    1. I hated it because she tells half truths and lies I know the truth and I have been here 23 years taking care of the only man that loved her mom and took on her and her three kids giving them a life not welfare she should be ashamed of herself for what she has done to this man and the man she married both were good men her step dad still loves her mom and I take care of the grave while she is out there writing hurtful hateful things

  25. Spot on review. Strayed is ridiculous and infinitely self absorbed. The book actually made me flat out angry at times…would not recommend.

  26. Pingback: What Liz Saw
  27. Wow, interesting thread. I opted not to read this book for all the reasons you mentioned hating it; fortunately, there were plenty of early reviews already available when I heard about it. I’ve been through a lot of loss, myself, and I can see challenging yourself physically to help work through your feelings. My running time (while my then-kindergartener was in school) was my time to grieve when my dad died. But, this sounds less like a physical challenge to work through feelings than a, “What the hell, might as well do something crazy because I’ve been reminded we all die,” type of book. At any rate, I’m sure I would have been like you, unable to relate to her on any level, apart from the loss, itself. I was only in my 20s when my dad died.

  28. really if you go back all the way back every story she has wrote is about the same thing the death of her mom her (SEX ADIICTION) LOL and her (DRUG ADDICTION w/no withdrawal) 2003 she even got the death of my sister-in-law wrong

  29. I hate this book as much as you do, if not more. I’ve wasted more than a month of my life reviewing this awful book chapter by chapter and I still have four more chapters to go. Please enjoy:

  30. I am sooo glad I’m finding people out there who feel the same way as I about the book. Although I actually found it an amusing read, I’m really shocked by how many people are treating this like some great American novel, particularly when I have the strong impression that a good 65-70% of the book is completely fictitious.

    In regards to a comment above, yes, you should spend a lunch hour going back through her old Sugar columns. You’ll come away convinced that her “memoirs” are nothing more than a few items from her past surrounded by things she just made up. This one for example:

    Never once does she mention her “life transforming” hike in any of her columns, even though she does talk about the death of her mother and her estrangement from her father, which I think are the few non-fictional elements to her tale.

    In addition to all the things she talks about in her book, she also claims (as Sugar) to have been sexually abused by her paternal grandfather, to have done meth (although earlier stating she had NOT done meth), to be a “cutter”, to have mentored troubled youth, to have taken care of an quadriplegic, and to have had a friend who was severely burned and then later committed suicide. Is there anything that HASNT (supposedly) happened to her?

    I really dont find anything about her to be particularly “inspiring.” Now, if she does decide one day to seek treatment for her narcissistic personality disorder and come clean about her “memoirs” then THAT might be something worth talking about.

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