Cheryl Strayed’s memoir, Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, has been my steady companion for the better part of two weeks. I haven’t felt so attached to a book in years, and when I turned the final page, I had the warm buzz that only comes from a great read (or maybe a nice glass of red wine).
Cheryl’s solo backpacking adventure along the Pacific Crest Trail is a bold attempt to both escape from and find herself in the wake of losing her mother to cancer. Having sabotaged her marriage despite still caring for her husband, she determines to be alone. She changes her last name to “Strayed” and leaves her home in Minnesota as a 26-year-old divorced woman with no companion save the massive backpack she dubs Monster.
This is not a book about divorce, but anyone who has ever lost—or felt they had to leave—someone they love will connect with Cheryl’s story. Working through grief requires granting forgiveness on so many levels, and Cheryl describes this messy process artfully. In one of my favorite scenes, she walks along a beach on the Oregon coast and asks, “What if I forgave myself?” And, “What if I was sorry, but if I could go back in time I wouldn’t do anything differently than I had done?”
While the book obviously has its heavy moments—the author’s description of loving and losing her mom makes the unimaginable painfully imaginable—it also offers gorgeous imagery, plenty of humor, and a touch of the sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll (or bluegrass) one expects from a good coming-of-age story. I adored this book, and I think you will, too.
- During (or after) your divorce, did you have the urge to pack your things and take an epic journey? Or maybe even a not-so-epic journey? Did you do it?
- If you could take a solo trip anywhere in the world, where would you go?
- Have you been able to forgive yourself about the breakdown of your marriage?
Cheryl Strayed is currently on tour, and I’m planning to attend one of her Twin Cities events in April. If you’d like to join me, let me know! If you would like to share your own divorced-before-30 story, please check out the submissions page! If you haven’t already, please visit Divorced Before 30 on Facebook and click “like!”
Disclosure: I received an Advance Reader’s Edition of Wild from Knopf in order to write this piece. The opinions expressed here are entirely my own.