I hadn’t heard of this book before Reese Witherspoon chose to produce a film version of it (which I’ve not yet seen, but plan to). The premise (is that the word you use when someone is writing about things that actually happened?) is that Ms. Strayed, a few years after the loss of her mother to cancer, the end of her own marriage, and some drug use, decided to hike the Pacific Coast Trail. I grew up spending at least a month a year in the High Sierras and now live minutes from the Cascades, but I’d never heard of the PCT until this book.
I feel a bit like the film blurbs gave a bit of an overly dramatic framing of Ms. Strayed’s story. It’s clearly dramatic, but, for example, while she definitely did drugs (heroin, specifically), I had the impression that she’d essentially been a junkie, which destroyed her marriage at the same time as her mother’s death. Not exactly. Not really even close. It’s more complicated than that, a slower burn.
Ms. Strayed is a fantastic story-teller. She manages to mix in stories of her youth and her more recent past with her trials on the hike. I appreciate her sense of adventure as well as her honesty about how even with all her planning she still didn’t plan nearly enough, that the trail is rough and can be brutal. She also makes it very clear that you really need to get your shoes sorted out ahead of time.
I pretty much devoured this book. I started it before catching a flight to a work event, and was annoyed that I had to put it down and do some actual work. I stayed up way too late the first night reading it, and way too late the next night finishing it. It was inspiring. Not in an ‘I’m-going-to-hike-the-PCT’ way (although…) but in a ‘people-are-fucking-resilient’ way.