BOOK REVIEW - 'WILD' BY CHERYL STRAYED
‘Wild’ by Cheryl Strayed is the story of a young American woman who went off the rails after losing her mother to lung cancer at the young age of 45. It’s a courageous book written with great honesty: Strayed has bared her soul to herself and her readers, sparing nothing. It’s about grief and loss and being lost when our anchor gives way. It’s also about ‘the journey from lost to found’ (the book’s sub title) through recognising the need for solitude and the healing power of nature. As a way of working out her grief, Strayed walked over 1,000 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail in North America. In my head I walked every step of the way with her, such was the resonance of her exploration of her grief and the parallels between her journey of self-discovery and healing, and my own experience. A pivotal moment in the story is when Strayed arrives at a volcanic lake of the deepest colour of blue, formed when a mountain ‘had its heart ripped out’ millennia ago. The void was then gradually filled up by nature to become the lake, which serves as a wonderful metaphor for Strayed’s journey. While contemplating the lake at length, Strayed realises she is at peace. Her previous self-harming behaviours, including intravenous heroin use and risky casual sex, were her looking for a way out; on the Pacific Crest Trail, she comes to understand that what she needs is a way in – to herself. With nature’s help and spending time alone, she is healed, no longer needing answers to everything, content simply to be. Crossing the river near her destination, The Bridge of the Gods, she feels the weight of her dead mother as a burden. She trusts her intuition and somehow releases this burden, which allows her dead mother to ‘cross to the other side’ in keeping with native American tradition. This book is a journey on many levels: a physical, emotional and spiritual journey, and a leap of faith that solitude and wilderness can help us to heal. It is a powerful testament to the resilience of the human spirit and our capacity to heal ourselves if we allow ourselves to follow our own path. It is beautifully written and moving. I highly recommend it as a helpful resource for those feeling lost and disconnected from life by grief.