I’m not going to lie to you: I started this book for the wrong reason. I’d heard how famous and inspirational this book was, but I thought a book about a girl wandering around the woods sounded really boring. And the from lost to found part? I took it literally, and was like, so what? Clearly she got found because she wrote the damn book.
Then I found out Reese Witherspoon was filming the movie. Not only that, but my friend whose character tried to kill mine in my last show was in a scene with her. It all felt very real and artsy and like I must be a real actor, even though he’s the real actor and Reese is, obviously, the best. So I had to read the book, you know, before the movie comes out.
|Photo: Reese Witherspoon, Twitter/WhoSay|
I have two things to say about this book.
#1 Cheryl Strayed is my spirit animal, as the kid’s say these days.
#2 I am so glad I didn’t try to read this book any earlier then I did.
When Cheryl was a senior in college, she found out her mom had terminal cancer, and dropped everything to be with her for the last six months of her life.
When I was a senior in college, I found out that my dad might have cancer, and rushed home, planning on dropping everything and move two states away from my life to do whatever I could for my dad. One week later, he was gone. He passed away five days after being officially diagnosed with cancer. That is a big, terrible, black hole of my personal history that I am still, four years later, processing and healing from.
Four years after her mother died, Cheryl Strayed hiked the Pacific Crest Trail. This book felt like the journey of a woman I could have been, and feel so very fortunate that I didn’t have to be. I feel very blessed that I wasn’t so broken that I had to hike 1,100 miles all by myself, putting my body through excruciating pain to come out on the other side finally whole.
|Photo: Josh Myers|
It’s a beautiful, honest memoir and not nearly as depressing as I just made it sound. What I love about Cheryl is that she is so strong and so vulnerable at the same time. I feel like any woman can understand what she’s going through as she hikes the trail, by herself and occasionally runs into some trouble. Sometimes she allows herself to be the damsel in distress (a little) and be fed by the kind strangers she runs into, and she certainly admits to being scared when she runs across a man that makes her feel unsafe, alone, in the woods, away from everyone. Or a bear. Or a moose. She runs into all of these characters and now I feel as though I got to experience this too.
That is the best thing about books. I can go on a safe emotional journey while sitting on my couch in my nice, warm house, but I can empathize and feel like I got to know someone and go on their journey with them, but also get to use my oven and my shower and see my friends and family.
It's like babysitting. Everything's all great and you're playing with a baby and then it gets poopy or starts to cry and you give it back.
protip: do NOT google image search "poopy baby"...cannot unsee...
Anywho. The book is beautiful and funny and wonderful and you should probably read it. I would not recommend it to anyone who recently lost someone, if I read it any early in my healing process I would probably have been bawling my eyes out for the entire book. Everyone else should read it. Though, if you're a hard core hiker you will probably laugh a lot at Strayed's absolute inexperience at the start of the book.