Posts Tagged ‘Dear Sugar’

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail

Let me preface this post by saying that it might come across as a little biased. I love Cheryl Strayed. I was never going to not adore this book. That doesn’t mean that Wild isn’t a wonderful, fantastic book, however.

I’ve been meaning to read Wild for a long time. I’ve been a fan of Cheryl Strayed ever since I found out she was the Sugar behind The Rumpus’s “Dear Sugar” column. If you’re not familiar with it, you should definitely check it out. It’s an advice column unlike any you’ve read before. It’s equal part beautiful prose, advice from the heart, and personal stories. A bunch of us discovered the column in a creative writing class in college, and from that point on Sugar became one of the guides I took with me through the end of college and into the real world.

I took with me phrases like “write like a motherfucker” and the kind, gentle advice from “Tiny Beautiful Things” into the real world. Sugar was like a friend. I felt this strange connection with her. I was thrilled when I got to meet her, just a few weeks before I left for Prague. She was in Iowa City promoting Wild, which had just come out. One of my English major friends drove down from Minnesota to go see her with me. I bought both her books and had her sign both of them. It was awesome. She exudes this peaceful, calm energy that makes you want to sit and listen to her tell stories and truths about her life forever. Or maybe that’s just because I’d spent most of the previous spring clinging desperately to “Dear Sugar,” rereading several of her columns and forcing myself to believe that graduation wasn’t going to be the end of the world.

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Anyway, Wild is the story of how, at 26, Strayed, after a 3-year spiral into darkness and drugs following her mother’s death, decided to heal herself by walking part of the Pacific Crest Trail. Unlike most people, who plan for years and practice and meticulously prepare for this hike, Strayed just sort of up and did it with only a few months of preparation. In this book, she recounts her transformative journey.

loved it.

Strayed is a great writer. She’s good at writing about things that affected her profoundly and reflecting on them in a way that isn’t constantly preachy or reflective. This is something I still need to work on. Pretty much every creative-nonfiction piece I write winds up sounding like a sermon, and when I read them back even I get annoyed with myself. I appreciate when people are able to walk that line between telling us what they got out of experiences, while leaving us room to draw our own conclusions and have our own thoughts about them.

On another note, I’ve always had a very strong sense of wanderlust, so I really like books where people travel and have profound experiences (except for Eat, Pray, Love. I couldn’t get into that one). Wild was no exception. I suddenly had a profound desire to hike the Pacific Crest Trail or take a month to backpack through Yosemite or the Rockies or something. Nevermind that I have never been backpacking in my life, I hate camping, and I am not cut out for carrying a giant backpack over rough terrain and not showering for days on end. I wanted to.

Maybe someday I will. I probably won’t go off on my own without a clue like Strayed did, but maybe I’ll go have some sort of spiritual journey of my own sometime. I just hope that I don’t have to get hooked on heroin and drown in grief to be transformed, because that’s not going to happen. At the heroin part isn’t, and I certainly hope the grief part doesn’t.

Either way, I recommend Wild if you’re looking for comfort and a good read that will make you want to hike and explore nature. One warning though – it’s an emotional read. I’m not a very emotional person; I rarely cry even when things are sad, and books and movies never make me cry. That said, Wild had me tearing up by page 20.

Rating: *****

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