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I am probably one of the last people to read and review this book because I tend to shy away from most Oprah selections. Yes, Oprah has inspired thousands to pick up a book who otherwise might not have and catapulted authors into super stardom and for that I applaud her and am thankful. I just tend to stray from over-hyped books at first. There, I said it; please don't hate me.
This selection was wonderful and here is why I enjoyed it. At 26, Cheryl was divorced from a man she loved; lost her supportive mother to cancer; abusive father left around age 6; disconnected from siblings; and was pulling out of a previous spiral into the world of heroin. Finding herself in a dark place, she turned to the guide for hiking the Pacific Coast Trail as many people turn to the Bible or any other source of enlightenment to find themselves.
Strayed shares abundant, almost copious details from her 2 months journey, laying out all the ugly and pretty inbetween with a raw, soul-searching style. You embark on the ill-planned journey of her life in addition to the hiking trip and travel not only through the rough terrain and mishaps, but deep into her soul searching. I don't find her self-involved or Godless, merely honest and I enjoyed each and every step.
Some reviewers disliked the narrator and I admit I wasn't crazy about her voice at first. If Cheryl was 26, I was thrown how the narrator's gravely older voice didn't match. However after the first 30 minutes, was hooked. Grew to think of her as the present day Cheryl recounting the past.
If you read and enjoy this title, download or pick up a copy of Mary Karr's, "Lit."
158 of 170 people found this review helpful
Previous reviews have made it clear, this is not a wilderness/adventure, it's not Into the Wild. The title is an adjective describing the author--the book, a personal journey with the PCT being a backdrop,--the backpack "Monster", probably a metaphor for Strayed's emotional load. Had there been reviews when I picked this book up, I might have made a different choice, but am glad now that I stumbled upon this. It was entertaining, moving, and frank; the writing was well done; the narration interpretted nicely.
Strayed writes about a difficult early life, leading up to the PCT choice, with detailed clarity, providing a more dimensional emotional component to the characters because of her adult recall some 20 years later. In spite of a "wild" personal lifestyle (at the time) she still writes the characters with honesty, even warmth and humor. She describes a pretty rough and amoral young woman, as well as some characters, in the community of trail nomads, that use the F-bomb in every part of speech known--and a few more. She doesn't pander for sympathy, she doesn't shrink from possible judgement--which she could easily do; but her writing style is as brave as her undertaking the PCT.
Only 3 stars?...I thought this a good read, but wouldn't pass it along unless someone was already considering the book. While giving such an honest account of her personal journey was brave, as Strayed described the trail at times--parts of her journey were "tedious". The parallel story of the actual hike? A brave undertaking with equal parts of lunacy involved; or at the very least, based on her lifestyle at the time and drug use, some wreckless disrespect for nature that realistically carries some weight regarding "bravery". I would caution readers: the passage dealing with putting down the mother's horse is brutal to the point of being traumatic, and impacted me immensely, even though I have witnessed such an event. I almost put down my ipod and quit; while a necessary event, I question the necessity of subjecting the reader to the horrible details (but then it is her book). Understanding upfront what this book is about, I think almost every reader will like this one--some more than others.
128 of 141 people found this review helpful