I'll save you a lengthy book review of Cheryl Strayed's beautiful memoir about her 3-month solo journey hiking the Pacific Crest Trail in America. Her journey was as much an attempt to understand the events of her life as to find herself in the world and make her way forward. The sentences below should be tantalising enough to make you read this book. Also, if you haven't read Cheryl Strayed's column on The Rumpus, you're in for a serious treat. It was the reason why I pre-ordered and waited so patiently for my international first edition of Wild.
'All through my childhood and adolescence I'd asked and asked, making her describe those scenes and more, wanting to know who said what and how, what she felt inside while it was going on, where so-and-so stood and what time of day it was. And she'd told me, with reluctance or relish, laughing and asking why on earth I wanted to know. I wanted to know. I couldn't explain. But now that she was dying, I knew everything. My mother was in me already. Not just the parts of her that I knew, but the parts of her that had come before me too.'
'Fear, to a great extent, is born of a story we tell ourselves, and so I chose to tell myself a story different from the one women are told. I decided I was safe. I was strong. I was brave. Nothing could vanquish me. Insisting on this story was a form of mind control, but for the most part, it worked. Every time I heard a sound of unknown origin or felt something horrible cohering in my imagination, I pushed it away. I simply did not let myself become afraid. Fear begets fear. Power begets power. I willed myself to beget power.'
'Alone had always felt like an actual place to me, as if it weren't a state of being, but rather a room where I could retreat to be who I really was. The radical aloneness of the PCT had altered that sense. Alone wasn't a room anymore, but the whole wide world, and now I was alone in that world, occupying it in a way I never had before. Living at large like this, without even a roof over my head, made the world feel both bigger and smaller to me.'
'There were so many other amazing things in this world. They opened up inside of me like a river. Like I didn't know I could take a breath and then I breathed. '
I think I'll stop quoting from the book because I don't want to ruin your reading of it, but it's safe to say that this has been the most engaging read; revealing, reflective, funny, sad and triumphant. I hate when good books end. And then when they make a movie that doesn't do it justice so people never bother reading the book (case in point, The Time Traveller's Wife).
Let's hope you read this before the film version gets out . . .