October 27, 2015

Just Finished: Wild by Cheryl Strayed

I had a couple of hypotheses about why I avoided this book for a long time, but figured I was finally about to see why everyone loved it so much, and join in. In fact, that was one of my hypotheses, that loving it so much myself was going to make me love my own memoir less, flawed as that logic is.

Nope. And nope.

I did not love this book. I can’t even say I liked it, though I wouldn’t exactly say I didn’t like it either. And now I’m totally bummed that I didn’t love it. I want to love the memoir of someone who so unfairly, agonizingly lost her mother at such a young age, someone who had the balls and fortitude to take on—and finish—hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, especially when she had no business doing it, and certainly someone brave enough to share her journey with the rest of us.

I do feel a sense of affection and admiration for the author, and these were the parts I liked, even though they’re so painful. I felt her shatter when her mother died, felt her anguish about going through with the divorce she needed but didn’t want, felt her wreckage when she had to put a horse down. I know what it’s like to be a girl with a hole in her heart. And in a twisted, annoying kind of way, I do think she earned the title of hard-ass motherfucking Amazonian queen she wanted so badly. Twisted and annoying because, among other things, she was so thoroughly unprepared—the right size boots and backpack are so essential as to be basic on a trip like this—I couldn’t help losing some sympathy for her. I’m sure that was the point, in part at least, that she was too broken to prepare for anything, including this trip, she simply had to do it. But I just couldn’t make myself give her that pass, no matter how good the metaphors of losing toenails or weight on her back.

Most of the rest of what I didn’t like about the book simply goes back to the mountains boring me. I found a lot of the actual hike—book—tedious, and actually skimmed my way through a lot of the last third.

What I’m grappling with now are my feelings of being underwhelmed by a book so well loved and an author so revered. I hate when this happens. Why am I not getting it? Why did some memoirs that held so much more magic for me (Jesus Land by Julia Sheeres or Love Is A Mix Tape by Rob Sheffield, to name just two) not get the same reception? Why are other people not getting those? Some people would say this doesn’t need to be grappled with at all; books speak differently to different people, and that’s OK. And I’m mostly fine with that too. I guess it’s just more fun, and secure, to jump on a crowded bandwagon.

Maybe I’ll watch the movie Wild, though I think the last time I spent my disposable time watching a movie was like six years ago on the Michael Jackson documentary. But I’m at least going to check out some other books by Cheryl Strayed, as well as her Dear Sugar podcasts (thanks to Beat Infertility, I’m digging podcasts these days). See, there you go, there’s a thing about books. Even when you don’t much like one, they still often lead you onward. Now that I’m wild about (sorry, couldn’t resist!).

Now Reading:

Chestnut Street by Maeve Binchy


The Art of Memoir by Mary Karr


***Seriously? I’m about to post this—how I did not love Wild—TODAY, when I see that Cheryl Strayed has a new book, Brave Enough, out TODAY. I had NO CLUE about an upcoming book of hers. What timing, I could not plan this shit if I tried. OK, so let me post this; then, what else, I’m off to check out her new book. And I am going to love it, dammit!