Today I finished one of the most moving and touching books I have ever read – Wild by Cheryl Strayed. I read as much as I possibly can, and there are lots of good books available, but I always think that the mark of a truly inspirational and life affirming book is one that leaves me profoundly moved, emotional and slightly breathless at the end of it. When I finish a book like that, I find myself wishing that it hadn’t ended, and I sit there for a while with it, remembering it, absorbing it, reeling from it. Those are the really great books, the ones that stand out from all the others by a country mile. Wild fulfilled all of those criteria.
Wild is Cheryl Strayed’s own story of how a series of events outside of her control upended her life and sent her on something of a downward spiral, and yet in the midst of that storm she made plans to hike the Pacific Crest Trail which runs up the West side of America, from the border with Mexico through California, Oregon and Washington to the border with Canada. Cheryl’s plan was to hike from Mojave to Washington State and to do it alone. This is a story of bravery and singlemindedness and facing down a mammoth challenge in the same way you would go about eating an elephant – one bite at a time – the sum of which leads to something far greater than Strayed ever expected – eventual peace of mind. Strayed’s is a very positive book, never looking on the dark side or veering into self pity or introspection, rather telling the story with quiet thoughtfulness and insight.
I first heard about this book from Gretchen Rubin’s website The Happiness Project, a place and subject which probably deserves a post in its own right. That will be for another day.