I'm always somewhat apprehensive after watching a movie which I have enjoyed immensely to then read the book. Reese Witherspoon put in such a brilliant performance in the 2014 movie, Wild, that I was concerned the book wouldn't attain the same lofty peaks (excuse the trail pun here!). I needn't have worried, as Strayed delivers a deeply personal memoir that bests the movie in almost all regards.
At the age of 26 Strayed finds her life spiralling out of control after the loss of her mother to cancer. Recently divorced having committed numerous infidelities and abusing alcohol and drugs, she decides to hike the famous Pacific Crest Trail despite having no experience at all.
The resultant book, Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, is written from journal notes Strayed wrote in 1995 before publishing in 2012 and is an extremely gritty account of her 3-month, 1,750 km journey. A story of honesty and courage, Strayed's cathartic outpourings are written with pure rawness, most especially when dealing with the death of her mother.
I've come across some reviews that believe Strayed's story to be embellished or only partly true and by her own admission, she has conflated certain events together within the book. Given the length of time between when she wrote her memoir and the events that took place, this is more than forgivable and if you're looking for a good piece which discusses this, check out Jay Livingstone's thoughts here.
These minor inaccuracies, however, in no way detracts from what is a wonderfully well written story. Bear in mind that this is not a book for people looking for information on the PCT or indeed a day to day retelling of life and events on the trail. This story is so much more than that and is as much a story about a woman who is seeking redemption from past events and looking to create a new future for herself, on her own terms.
Frequently listed in the top 10 of best travel book lists, Strayed's book lives up to the hype and is wildly recommended.
4.5 stars out of 5
Credit: Banner photo by Miguel Vieira