This was a book on my reading list that I was so excited to read because it sounded like a great story and I had heard so many great things about it. But, it was taking me awhile to get around to reading. It was one of the books that I always passed at the bookstore, picked it up, rolled it over in my hands, and then put it back down again, telling myself, “next time, definitely next time.” Only, with the movie coming out (which it already has!), next time wasn’t doing it for me anymore, so I finally bought it. And, boy am I glad that I now own this book. Wow, just wow. I can honestly see myself reading this again and maybe even again.
To begin with, if you haven’t already heard what this novel is about, it is a memoir written by Cheryl Strayed about her decision to hike the Pacific Crest Trail, PCT, that runs from the Mexican border in California spanning all the way up into Canada. Strayed does not hike all the way to the Canadian border and doesn’t start at the beginning, but she still hikes hundreds of miles on a quest to analyze herself and find the person she wants to be. Join her on her journey as she explores the parts of her past that led her to this point and where it is going to take her. She grows so much through this hike and is wonderfully inspirational. Strayed finds so much on this journey and honestly makes me believe that anyone, including myself, could do something like this if it’s really what is necessary or is a serious goal.
I think one of the main reasons that I loved this novel so much was because it was so relatable. Strayed is a character that makes some bad choices and also has to deal with many issues that were thrust upon her beyond any control, including the death of her mother, something that seriously impacted her life. Because of all this, she sets out to hike the trail and get back on track to the person she’s wanted so much to become. Maybe I can relate to it so much because my life is a bit of a mess right now, so I can completely grasp what she’s feeling when she sets out. I am also an aspiring writer and can relate to her struggle of trying to work that all out for herself too. But, the main reason that I can relate to this, though, is because I consider myself a runner, and I can feel what she feels when she is hiking the trail: the not being able to focus on anything but the pain, the simplistic-ly agonizing idea of putting one foot in front of the other (so much easier than it sounds), and not giving up even though everything hurts. So why do we do these things? To make us a better, stronger people.
But, even though I related so much to this character, I don’t necessarily think that being able to relate to her specific issues is necessary because she makes her overall struggle relatable. Everyone has things in their lives that they have to deal with and Strayed proves that whatever those problems are you are capable of overcoming them. Strayed set out to hike this trail completely out of shape and considered giving up so many times, but she didn’t, and that’s what’s important. She didn’t give up. She accomplished what she set her mind to and she did it. That is the important lesson of this novel. It’s not about who you are when you start, but who you are when you finish, and hopefully you are better than you were before. Strayed is resilient and she plants that seed of resilience into her readers’ brains.
Strayed does not only provide a relatable, inspiring story, she also writes it together beautiful. Her prose is heartwarming, flowing, artistic, and heart wrenching all at the same time. She uses everything she can to her advantage to bring this story together in the very best way. Her prose was lyrical and magical and everything that I wanted it to be. The New York Times Book Review wrote, “Spectacular…A literary and human triumph.” And I agree with that statement whole-heartedly. This writing did not lack in any way for me. I am so happy that this book did not disappointment me at any point. I wished it would never end.
Although I have done nothing but praise how amazing this novel was, I am going to warn you that it was a bit of a heavy read. I’m a quick reader, but this one didn’t fly right on by because there was so much to think about while I was reading it. There was so much happening and so much that I wanted to reflect on that it definitely would not fall under the category of the “I have a few hours and want a light fluffy read” category. But, I will tell you that it is absolutely worth it. This read will change you in some way, and, optimistically, in the best way. Strayed really made me feel something and ignited a flame in me that has been flickering for far too long. I hope she can do the same thing for you.
There is just one more thing I want to talk about before I wrap this review up. Like I said in the synopsis, this story is not just about Strayed hiking the PCT. There is so much more to this story than what you might think. Strayed delves deeply into her past and what brought her to hiking the trail to get her life on a different course. She perfectly integrates the past with the present. Everything fit perfectly together and the way she pairs everything together enhances the story even more. Every single thing she brings up fits into this novel and her journey and helps us to understand her journey and her resilience.
I am so glad that I finally changed this novel’s status from next time to this time. It was worth the read 100%. I loved every page of this novel. Strayed is a brilliant writer and weaves a beautifully intricate story that deserves to be the best seller it has become. Also, touching on the movie quick. I haven’t seen it yet, but I have a close friend who said it was really good, so this movie is most definitely on my to-see list!
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