I’m going to admit it up front – I bought this book because of Oprah. Let me back up a bit. I first heard of the book on the totally AWESOME Books on the Nightstand podcast and blog. But I didn’t buy it until I saw it at Costco (yes, I buy books at Costco. I pretty much buy books everywhere.)
The book is the story of Cheryl Strayed and her decision to hike the Pacific Coast Trail. I actually felt kind of bad because I had no idea that the entire length of California in the Sierra Nevadas has a hiking trail. But then I remembered that I don’t hike so I would have no idea about the trial.
Cheryl lost her mother, and then her family and her marriage fell apart. She went from Minnesota to Portland, Oregon to spend time with a friend and ended up hooking up with a guy and using heroin. And that is when I stopped liking her. For most of the book, I did not like her. I thought she was selfish and self-pitying. Of course, I can say that because I haven’t lost a parent. I also don’t understand how she could be so blase about using heroin. But again, I’ve never done that.
She set out in the Mojave Desert, determined to hike all the way to Oregon alone. She packs her backpack, which she aptly names Monster and begins her adventure. During the course of her hike, she encounters extreme heat (anyone from Fresno can understand that), snow, ice, rattlesnakes, bulls, and creepy mountain dudes. She survives it all and finishes her hike.
I am still – a week later – trying to figure out what it was about Cheryl that I didn’t like. The only answer I can come up with right now is that I’m somewhat jealous. Not of the fact that she hiked the PCT. I’m NOT a camper or hiker. I’m not attracted to not showering for days at a time and camping alone. But. That having been said, I’m jealous of her having the ability to disappear for three months and figure out who she is and what she wants.
The book is well-written. And I liked her ability to describe not only the scenery, but the people she encountered. I could picture them all in my mind’s eye. Her style was down-to-earth and engaging. The only real complaint I have about the book is that I didn’t find her to be that likable. Otherwise, it is a pretty good book.