The Book List from Cheryl Strayed’s Wild

I almost didn’t finish reading Cheryl Strayed’s Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail (2012), a pick from Oprah’s book club 2.0.  The book is a memoir of Strayed’s experiences hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, from southern California to Oregon, by herself during her twenties after a messy divorce and the death of her mother.  I wanted to read it and I wanted to like it, but when I got to page 57 and she described having an abortion as if she’d just brushed her teeth or driven to the grocery store, my stomach turned.  She wrote, “I got an abortion and learned how to make dehydrated tuna flakes and turkey jerky and took a refresher course on basic first aid and practiced using my water purifier in my kitchen sink” (57).

Let me be clear about my feelings.  I do not believe that abortion should be banned.  As a feminist, I believe that women have the right to choose, especially in circumstances such as rape or incest.  I guess my problem with Strayed’s description was that she seemed to take it lightly.  She seemed not to care, and she’d only gotten pregnant because she’d been sleeping around on her husband and doing heroin.  Her reasons for getting an abortion bothered me, and I know that’s judgmental, but I was bugged all the same.  Perhaps, though, that baby was better off not coming to someone who was so admittedly messed up.  Of course, there’s always adoption, and having recently seen adoption bless two of my friends’ lives, I am all for it.

I must admit that I am glad I soldiered on and kept reading, for Strayed does write a tiny little bit more about that abortion toward the end.  What finally softened my heart toward her was this: “It only made me beg the universe to give me another chance.  To let me become who I needed to before I became a mother: a woman whose life was profoundly different than my mother’s had been” (272).  To this, she refers to her mother’s own unwed pregnancy and subsequent marriage to an abusive man.  I admire Strayed’s desire to be a better person than her mother had been and to be a better mother from the get go.  I’m not sure what I think about her belief in the universe allowing her to do so, for didn’t she make the choice to have unprotected sex and the choice to get an abortion?  I have little patience for people who do not take responsibility for their actions, and I maintain that the world would be a better place if everybody did so and stopped playing the blame game.

Okay, I’m stepping off of my soap box now to get to what I thought of the memoir as a whole.  I didn’t really like it.  I got over my complicated feelings about her abortion and continued reading.  But I never really found myself moved by or drawn to her experiences.  She focuses on the death of her mother and her divorce, which prompted her to hike the Pacific Crest Trail in the first place.  She complains a lot about her childhood, and I’m all for reading about complicated and unhappy childhoods since I had one (read about it here and here), but her account came across as self-indulgent, needy, and overly dramatic.  I mean, the woman admits to having put her mother’s “burnt bones into my mouth and swallowed them whole” (269).  Yuck.  I know, I know.  I’m being judgmental again.  I guess I just didn’t like her tone.  As to her numerous sexual escapades, she shared them in shocking detail.  TMI.  In the end, I was happy to see her feel unburdened of grief for her mother, but I’m not sure that as a reader I learned anything new or became any more enlightened for having read her story.

Yet, the story she tells is interesting, and she has some valid ideas about fear and strength.  She says, “Fear, to a great extent, is born of a story we tell ourselves, and so I chose to tell myself a different story from the one women are told.  I decided I was safe.  I was strong.  I was brave.  Nothing could vanquish me” (51).  I admire her for this way of thinking.  I know that I let fear conquer certain parts of my life, and that fear is mostly because I’m a petite woman, but her words have inspired me to tell a different story to myself.

What became most fascinating to me about her narrative is the books she read along the way.  She mailed herself boxes of supplies along the trail, and each box contained a book.  She took to burning the pages of the books as she read, because she could not afford the extra weight in her unwieldy backpack, dubbed “Monster.”  That backpack does provide for much comic relief.  But as I read, I began keeping track of the books she was reading.  To my delight and surprise (and annoyance at myself for taking too many notes), there’s a complete list of her books at the back of Wild.  I did not have to write any of them down.  Here they are.

The Pacific Crest Trail, Volume 1: California by Jeffrey P. Schaffer, Thomas Winnett, Ben Schifrins, and Ruby Jenkins

Staying Found: The Complete Map and Compass Handbook by June Fleming

The Dream of a Common Language by Adrienne Rich

As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner

The Complete Stories by Flannery O’Connor

The Novel by James Michener

A Summer Bird-Cage by Margaret Drabble

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

Dubliners by James Joyce

Waiting for the Barbarians by J. M. Coetzee

The Pacific Crest Trail, Volume 2: Oregon and Washington by Jeffrey P. Schaffer and Andy Selters

The Best American Essays 1991, editors Robert Atwan and Joyce Carol Oates (LINK)

The Ten Thousand Things by Maria Dermoût

I am not ever planning to hike the Pacific Crest Trail, so the books on that subject do not appeal to me.  But I do find myself wanting to read some of the others.  The Novel by James Michener, although Strayed admits its status is something lower than fine literature, sounded interesting.  I am always a fan of The Best American Essays series, and I have never read Margaret Drabble’s work.  I’ve already read Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying.  I have also read Flannery O’Connor’s complete stories, and I felt that Strayed’s choice to bring her on the trip was a smart one.  Those stories can entertain and enlighten anybody, anywhere, even if they’ve been read before.

The Ten Thousand Things sounded deep and emotional.  I’m not into poetry, but I have enjoyed Adrienne Rich’s work in the past, especially the poem about the fish that Strayed constantly refers to.  I am currently reading Rich’s Of Woman Born, an exploration of motherhood and feminism, for my women’s studies class, so reading Rich’s poetry seems like the next step.  I just might try Strayed’s whole collection, along with Joyce, Coetzee, and Nabokov.  I have read other work by Joyce and Coetzee, so I know those books are likely fabulous.  As to Nabokov, I want to and need to read Lolita, because it’s on the BBC book list that I’m working my way through, but the subject matter intimidates and frightens me.  Perhaps I just need to get it over with.

Is there anything on the list that interests you?  What have you already read from it?

60 thoughts on “The Book List from Cheryl Strayed’s Wild

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  1. Compelling review. While Lolita is a stylistic tour de force, I prefer Faulkner, with As I Lay Dying being one of his best. Nothing to add about Joyce, Coetzee, O’Connor, obviously amazing. Nice blog.

  2. I found that I actually enjoyed Lolita for the most part. It was written at a time when details were not given and situations were alluded to rather than discussed in greusome details. Also, for the most part of the story you simply realize that the main character is odd but not awful. The character development is very good, as is the style. I think that if you give it a chance, you’ll be able to jump the hurdle and find it not as onerous as you imagine.

    I read it after reading “Reading Lolita in Tehran”, one of my most favourite and maningful books, so I figured, the ladies in Tehran read it and discussed it, so can I. And I agree it’s an important read and discussion topic.

      1. I also loved Reading Lolita in Tehran! Have never been compelled to read Lolita, but I am open. Not sure if you still check this, I am a little late to the party. I found it by googling for a list of the books she reads in Wild. I have not made it to the end and did not realize there is a list in the book! Enjoyed your review. While I don’t want to hike the trail, I appreciate that she decided to do something impossible. She began and it was too hard, but she kept going despite the seeming hopelessness of accomplishing the task. I have Rheumatoid Arthritis and have done a few things that are difficult for me. Cheryl is really inspiring me to step far out of my comfort zone and see what impossible things I can accomplish. Coming back to Reading Lolita in Tehran, I love to experience the lives of others through literature. Literature shows me that I have some problems but was dealt a good hand. I am committed to living in gratitude rather than feeling like a victim, esp. when so many of the world’s women would love to be in my middle class American shoes. We are all sisters, even if we have never met, those lives could have just as randomly been mine.

  3. I haven’t read the book, though that quoted line on page 57 does seem careless about a subject that would seemingly require more attention or brooding especially on a hiking trip. But because the book is called Wild and it is marketed as such with an accompanying torn down shoe, I can see this sentence and attitude as a purposeful gimmick in shaping her rebellious image. And I could see why it is a turn off.

    1. Yes, a purposeful gimmick. Great analysis. And she is a rebel. I can see how her writing was trying to reflect that now that you mention it. I guess the world would be a boring place if we were all goody goodies. Wonderful comments! Thanks.

  4. I’m not sure how to articulate what I’m feeling – but I’m going to try.
    I don’t know much about Lolita. In fact, I have never heard of it until I started following your blog. I read that it was the only book you may consider not reading on the BBC list. To me, that little bit of information was very interesting and I’ll tell you why. I know we’re not entirely alike, but I do think we are similar in many ways. I think we’re both compelled by a strong sense of order and completeness. If I were to say I was going to read all the books on the BBC list, I think I would feel a very strong urge to read And I figured you would be the same. So, then I started wondering, “What is it about Lolita that would make Emily not want to read it?” I googled it. As soon as I read what the book was about I thought to myself, “Ahh, yes. That makes sense. I would not want to read it either even though not finishing every book on the list would go against so much of my inborn personality characteristics.”
    I’m not judging you or even saying that you shouldn’t read Lolita. In fact, I half expected that one day I would see a review for it on your blog because I know you are very driven to do what you say and finish what you start. I know you would appreciate good writing despite the content. With that said, there is a part of me that was sad when I read this comment from you:
    “As to Nabokov, I want to and need to read Lolita, because it’s on the BBC book list that I’m working my way through, but the subject matter intimidates and frightens me.”
    I’m all for taking chances and doing things we may be afraid of, but in this instance it seems a little different. You say that you NEED to read Lolita – almost as if you don’t have a choice. And I just want to say that you do have a choice. If you choose to read Lolita, then that’s great. I’ll read your review and I’ll probably even find your take on it to be interesting. But I hope you don’t choose to read it just because it’s on “the list”. I mean, who really wrote that list anyway? I know I read somewhere on your blog and it’s easy to find discussions on the internet regarding the authenticity of the list (which doesn’t matter because you can choose to read what you want. Please don’t think for a second that I’m discrediting your desire to read all the books on the BBC Book list – I think it’s admirable and such a lofty goal that I think there will be very few individuals who could ever say they’ve done it. If you want to read every book on the BBC Book list, then go for it)! But, for what it’s worth, I don’t think you should read something you’re uncomfortable with just to check off a box on a list.
    Oh, and I’m sure you know this, but The BIG Read list on the BBC website does NOT include Lolita.

    1. Great thoughts! Yes, we have similar personalities. I want to finish the list. But wait! There are other lists?!? Without Lolita! Maybe I should switch. No. I’m kidding, but I was a little miffed to find out that my “BBC” list is mostly folkloric. You would think I’d have picked up on that with my folklore training, but alas. Anyway, thanks for the thoughts. You are right. I can choose. I guess the big question is how? 🙂

      1. 🙂 Hehe…your comment made me laugh. Could there possibly be other lists?
        My two cents on how to choose – go with your heart. I think it says a lot when you look at a list of 100 books and you say there’s only 1 book you might not want to read. I think if I were to read that book it would make me feel sick and it definitely would not inspire me. Still – I don’t like depressing books like you do. 🙂

  5. I sort of agree with the other poster in that the BBC list is kind of arbitrary. I mean, there are many list of the top 100 books of all time. The Times and the Guardian also have them, and it would be an interesting exercise to do a comparison of them all! You could always pick and choose from each list, I suppose, but i’s kind of ‘neater’ to just pick one.

    As for the Lolita debate; I have read it, though a long time ago. Whilst the subject matter is disturbing for sure it is not written in an explicit way. It is fine to read, I think. Although I’m not sure how I would feel reading it again now that I have a daughter of my own. Maybe it would be different. I read it when I was a literature student so a long while ago, but it did have quite an impact on me, as did the film with Jeremy Irons, which I remember quite vividly. It was strange to watch something which I ‘enjoyed’ but found disturbing at the same time.

    As for your views on this book, I don’t think I would read it, but I can sort of tell even though you try to pull out some positives that you didn’t really rate it! I wonder if her dismissive attitude to her abortion is more about her inability to deal with it. I think it’s actually very poignant, that line that she wrote. After all we are women, abortion happens, but we can’t really talk about it. It’s like a dirty secret isn’t it? (I’ve never had an abortion but I have many friends who have), and we have to, at the end of the day, get on and make the dinner, clean the sink, or whatever. Just get on with things. We are women after all. I wonder if she actually feels quite so casual about the whole thing or if this is a literary masking of sorts (I may be completely wrong I haven’t read the book!). And I’m all for giving people a second chance. We all make mistakes.

    I wonder have you read anything by Caitlin Moran? She is a sort of new-wave British feminist/journalist/writer. She wrote a very famous and honest article about aborting her third child. I found that extremely difficult to read, but I understand her reasons for doing it and I think she makes very valid points about our (read society’s) attitudes to abortion. I wonder what you would make of her.

    Thanks as always for a thought-provoking post.

    1. Thanks for the wonderful comments. I was beginning to wonder if anybody would engage with me on the abortion issue. You make some valid points, and because Strayed did eventually mention the abortion again in more conscious terms, I think your assumption is right that she just didn’t know how or didn’t want to deal with it emotionally right then. I hope she eventually did, and she is a mother now, so during her first pregnancy she must have had some sort of reconciliation with herself and her feelings on the issue.

      I am aware of Moran, and I wanted to read her new book until I heard about that abortion of her third child. Like you say, it was hard to read and I just wasn’t sure if I could handle it. I wouldn’t do that. But she’s not me. I would just deal with having another (unwanted, unexpected) baby and hope that things worked out for the best. I do like what Moran says about women’s liberation, that it should be for everybody. Every woman should identify with rights equal to those of men’s.

  6. I totally agree about the abortion part; I’m surprised she’s so cavalier about it, although I wonder if it’s a defense mechanism of some kind? Glossing over it in order to avoid talking about something so painful, and thus preventing it from becoming the main focus of the book? I haven’t read this (it’s on my list) yet so I don’t know. I also strongly agree about taking responsibility for yourself. As for Nabokov – you don’t read Lolita for enjoyment, you read it for the writing. I read it when I was backpacking and another traveller we’d been hanging out with asked me about it. When I told her, she wrinkled her nose and was all, “Ewww!” and then avoided me after that. I wasn’t too bothered as she was working her way through a stack of old People magazines so I figured her literary opinion maybe wasn’t worth worrying about. (meow)

    1. Ha ha! That’s hilarious. Good for you not letting that People magazine person bug you. I do want to read it. After all of the thoughts and comments on this blog, I think I can do it. It is probably more looming and scary to think about it so much rather than to just give it a try. I have read passages from it in classes, and it wasn’t too detailed.

      I think you are right about her attitude toward abortion. It was likely too much to deal with right then, especially given the loss of her mother and the end of her marriage.

  7. I just looked at my bookmark, I read to page 71. Never the less surprised by the aukward honesty depicted in this book. Mother nature has a devine healing effect, I believe this is what the author was in pursuit of overall..did you catch the interview on NPR?

    1. I heard the interview with Cheryl Strayed yesterday! It was on the Diane Rehm show. It must’ve been a rerun. I only caught part of it, as I was running in and out of the grocery store, but it was interesting. It softened my view toward Strayed a little and helped me to see that what she accomplished really was huge. Thanks for letting me know about it!

  8. I know that different books can and do make different impressions on people, but I am still so surprised to read that you were not moved by Cheryl Strayed’s book, Wild. I certainly didn’t admire everything about the author and the choices she made, but I didn’t think she was trying to persuade me to like her or admire her. She was, I thought, the first to criticize herself, and her downward spiral of negativity no doubt just worsened the crisis she was experiencing in the time after her mother’s death. I also can’t agree with you that she was particularly whiny about her childhood. I thought Ms. Strayed’s writing about her childhood was presented in a straight-forward, fairly objective fashion. I also didn’t find her writing or book gimmicky; rather, I found Wild very well-written and compellingly honest. I came across your blog and review in the process of searching for a list of the books C.S. read on the PCT. I was impressed with your writing and reflectiveness, and yet I did find your review off-putting because of what seems to be a lack of empathy and a rigid judgementalness. I also pondered if you might be a little envious of her success as an author. Doesn’t seem too far-fetched given your own accomplishments and endeavors in the world of literature. This thought did cross my mind upon reading your tepid review. But of course I’m struggling to understand how anyone can give Wild less than a stellar review. I really think it’s that good a book. Oh well, to each her own. Kind regards, JEH

    1. I, too, am surprised that I did not like it. The tone just put me off. Perhaps, if I read it again under different circumstances, I would feel differently. I wouldn’t put that down to jealousy, however. I am confident in my own accomplishments and have no desire to write a memoir. Thanks for stopping by.

    2. I also want to add that I admitted several times in the post to being judgmental. Which of us isn’t from time to time? I know that I have flaws, but I am surprised and hurt to have assumptions made about me based on my difference of opinion over a book.

      1. I recognize that you acknowledged an element of judgementalness on your part, which I did and do appreciate. You also later declare you had gotten beyond the judgementalness you were experiencing, but I found that declaration either disingenuous or just not altogether plausible.

        Not to be overly dramatic, but hasn’t a “difference of opinion over a book” been the cause of men’s wars in our human history, like when those books have been the Bible and Koran for instance? Well, Wild isn’t anywhere in that league, so please accept my apology for hurting your feelings, which wasn’t my intention, but it’s challenging to express one’s strong disagreement without causing offense. Please understand that and know that I sincerely admire and appreciate your blog and your writing ability and your point of view, and send only good wishes your way!

        1. Also, thank you for including the book list from C.S.’s hike on the Pacific Crest Trail. Had trouble finding it anywhere else!

        2. Thank you! I am glad to exchange thoughts and ideas with you. Thanks for your kindness. And I am glad you found the list useful. I still haven’t gotten around to reading any of them, but I do wish to…someday!

  9. I’d already read some previously.But so far Wild hasn’t as yet prompted me to read more from her list. Hope to perhaps in 2013.

    So far have read:
    Dubliners — really loved it.
    Complete Stories of Flannery O’Connor — pretty wonderful.
    Lolita — made me squirm to read; appreciated the writing stylisticaly and its insights; not an enjoyable read though — how could it be? (only read it after “Reading Lolita in Tehran,” which I found very engrossing and well-written though a bit disjointed and challenging at first to get into).

    Happy reading and happy 2013!

  10. Thanks for the list. I agree that the abortion and divorce she was too blase about. I am married . I will asume Paul is not a saint. Cheryl was kind and let her ex off the hook. ( classy move?) I wanted more about the mystery about her psychological make up. She did give up jucy tidbits. (sex at the beach)
    In the end I felt it was a product ( that I enjoyed). What made me read this book? The hook of the boot being flung off the cliff. I also like these man vs. nature stories.
    Recomend the movie “the way” and the audio book “Along the way” by Martin Sheen and Emilo Esteves. The movie is about a guy walking the Camino De Santagio and the audiobook talks about the father son relationship they have. That project was inspired by the book “Off the Road: A Modern-Day Walk Down the Pilgrim’s Route into Spain” by Jack Hiti. It has a lot of the modern narrator going over a landsape describing it for us. Her travel log adventure tone reminded me of the Santiago book.
    Thank you for talking about adoption . I am a foster parent and I am grateful for my daughters mother choice to give birth to her. This 3 y/o little girl is very precious to me.

    1. I loved the movie “The Way.” It was fantastic and so inspiring. I identified with it more than I did this book. Thanks for the great comment. Your daughter is lucky to have you!

  11. Our book club just finished reading Wild, and are now going to choose one book from Strayed’s PCT reading list for our October read. I came across your blog while searching for site that had a list of the books. I appreciate reading everyone’s toughts and comments on the book list though still don’t know which book I’ll choose.

    As for Wild, I agreed with many portions of your review. I recognize that she is writing from the perspective of the 20something that she was at the time, but would have enjoyed it much more if the 40something Strayed would have brought some perspective to the book. Even so, I enjoyed the descriptions of the PCT and the people she met along the way.

    1. Yes, you have hit the nail on the head! I wanted to hear a more “mature” perspective, but if that isn’t what she wanted to accomplish then I guess I have to accept that. Thanks for putting it into a concrete reason for me.

  12. Great blog. Thanks for reminding me that I need to read her list.

    I loved Wild. I loved it so much that I want to re-read it soon. I’m in my early 20’s, so I think her perspective was easy to relate to. I also love her Dear Sugar book from her previous online advice column. She’s a great writer and just full of so much wisdom and insight. I really hope she continues writing books!

  13. I just found your blog while googling the list of books Strayed read on her hike. I loaned my book to a friend before writing them down. I really have enjoyed this blog, and found myself reading all the comments with pleasure, too! I look forward to checking back with you on further readings.
    I thoroughly enjoyed the book, so much so that my room feels different now that Ive finished and sent it away to someone else… I hope my friend reads it fast so I can re-read it! I am not much of a writer, so can’t articulate as well as your other readers have, but I agreed with everything Janet Harris said (how’s that for a cop out! lol) I thought the bit about the abortion spoke more to her frame of mind during the event, and was not intended as a comment on her opinion of the act. It felt genuine, and painful because of the thoughtlessness of it. I grieve for the abortions I had when I was young and impulsive, but don’t carry judgement for myself or others. That may sound callous, also. We all look back and see things we have done and know we would do them differently now… or at least I do. That is not one of them.
    But all that aside, I enjoyed the book immensely for it’s honesty and courage. The kind of courage I am used to, where you throw yourself into something that is obviously too much to handle, for reasons that don’t occur to you, and find your way none the less. She seems to run on intuition and passion. I like that, and wish I had taken more chances in my life. I admire her spontaneity! I lost my folks a little while back, so her process of grief was compelling, too.
    Thank you for your wonderful blog. It has been good reading through it all!

    1. I’m glad you found some peace, comfort, and identification with this book. It sounds like you’ve been through a lot of tough things. I can see where some of what she shared was meant to be an indication of her frame of mind, rather than a social commentary. I like that interpretation. Thanks for sharing your astute thoughts and for reading my blog. It is nice to have you here!

  14. I also almost stopped at the abortion part, it really didn’t set well with me at all. She murdered her own child because she was screwing around and doing drugs, then she’s super casual about it…not too endearing if you ask me. I’m pro-life/pro-adoption/first time new mom, so I’m pretty sensitive to the issue. I haven’t finished it yet but I did keep reading, hopefully it’ll be worth it to read the rest. I don’t really connect with her the way I usually do with characters because of the abortion, but the subject of hiking through the west is fascinating to me so I’ll keep going for now.

    1. It sounds like we all have different reactions to the book and to her. I have complicated feelings about abortion, where I disagree with the state dictating what a woman can and can’t do with her body (as women performed abortions on themselves through all periods of time, whether or not it was legal), but I personally wouldn’t do it. It is certainly a tough issue.

  15. I found your blog because I had the same impression of her casualness about her abortion. It was truly a tasteless statement from her and calls her character into judgement. The heroin use was annoying as well as the cheating/sleeping around, but that nonchalant statement about her abortion was disgusting. I’m pro-choice but I’m also pro-contraception and it’s unfortunate that there are people in this world with such limited consciences. I stopped reading after her abortion comment.

    1. She addresses it more emotionally toward the end of the book. I wonder if you would have found some value in her story if you’d continued reading, but I’m all for not finishing books that don’t speak to us.

    2. Is anyone truly pro-choice if they cast such judgments over those who make certain choices? And to stop reading the book because of such judgment? I have always thought that reading allows people to see the lives, choices, circumstances that they are not familiar with or may not agree with.

  16. just started this and had the same exact reaction at page 57. considered not reading further. going to though. appreciate her solo hiking reflections. thanks for the review!

  17. I know this conversation is really, really old, but I just finished the book and like others, found your post while looking for the book list. Just wanted to say that I thought she meant she swallowed her mother’s bones figuratively. That made sense to me. Ciao!

    1. That does make more sense! Thanks for the input and for joining this “old” conversation. I suspect if I read this book again now, I’d have a totally different reaction. I love that about books.

  18. Cheryl Strayed is a narcissist and a pathological liar and she made up the vast majority of her “memoir.” I won’t waste your time getting into all of it if you’re not interested, but know that there are thousands of people who are aware of her lies and Cheryl is doing everything in her power to cover everything up. Just to give you an example, however, let’s explore the passage about Spider. Cheryl wants us to believe that Spider, a biker-type fellow who uses “mother—-er” every other word or so, tells her a story (page 184) about “a scientist in France back in the thirties or forties” who was “trying to get apes to draw these pictures,” and eventually one of the apes draws a picture of the bars of its own cage. Fine. Sure. Except… check these links out: (Look at the section on the Afterword)

    Well, would you look at that. Cheryl stole that very story from one of her very favorite books, Lolita, and didn’t expect anyone to notice.

    Let’s just start with that.

    Also, Cheryl is a terrible writer:

    “I walked and walked and walked.”
    “I cried and I cried and I cried.”
    “It rained and rained and rained.”

    Please. Children can write better than that.

    The only good thing about this book is this:

  19. I really enjoyed reading your review of Wild because it was very different from my own view. It is true that I was drawn to it because of my own inability to move forward in a positive way after my mother’s death. When she describes wanting to know everything about her mother, including who she was before having her, I thought of my Mom who had a hard life and dedicated her self to raising my handicapped brother, she shared her deepest feelings with me. And like Strayed’s mother she loved me “more than anything in the world”. Strayed’s story validated my own feelings. Some relationships are so deeply in bedded in your soul that maybe the loss of that relationship can make you become a person whose actions are far from admirable and even self destructive. Maybe a lot of people just hide those wounds better. Frankly, her honesty made the book for me. How boring if she had watered down the events of her life. The abortion comment to me was meant to seam callous. Remember that she is unable to give or love anyone at this time in her life. Her husband says to her that she is finally getting what she wants “to be alone”.Her words seem to admit that she was almost checking off a list of to do items. Did she really feel so little about the abortion? No, I think if affected her deeply. I believe she just pushed it down deeply at the time with the rest of her shame and self loathing. A woman who stayed by her mother’s side and tried to keep her family together would of course be affected by the abortion. I loved the book and have underlined passages to re-read.

    1. I like your interpretation. I can see how Strayed perhaps did this on purpose, to bring us through the narrative the same way she did. Thanks for helping me to see it that way. And thanks for sharing your own experience with your Mom.

  20. I did not read this book (I’m glad that I didn’t-the movie was slow enough). I am wondering and you have to wonder if she just brushed over the abortion because it’s painful? I’m going back and forth on whether I’ll write my memoir and/or what and how I choose to go about some situations. I was sexually assaulted when I was 7 by my 18 year old step-brother…do I write about it? If so, how much do I write about it? Do I even mention it? Do I share it’s effects on my life? It doesn’t define who I am but it was a painful experience.

    I just believe that sometimes people cannot discuss it. For whatever reason…pain, disappointment, etc. I’m definitely pro-choice because I believe that women (for the most part) do not take the decision lightly.

    Just my 0.02.

    1. Agreed! I’m pro-choice too, and I guess as a reader I wanted to hear more about what the experience was really like. She seemed to come around to it at the end, but yeah, the book was slow. I’m not planning to see the movie.

      I’m sorry you were sexually assaulted. Thank you for sharing that. I tend to share my painful experiences, but not the darkest or most disturbing ones, so I see your point. 🙂

  21. I think the abortion part was written that way because at the time, Cheryl didn’t care. She was a drug addict and her life was pretty much a mess. But as the book goes on, she starts to change and to understand the seriousness of her actions. The sentence after the abortion part (“…and learned how to make dehydrated tuna flakes and turkey jerky and took a refresher course on basic first aid..”) is almost like a cry for help. Maybe I’m reading too much into that, but I’ve suffered depression in the past, and to deal with it I used minimize my emotions and feelings by making jokes or being sarcastic. But that’s just my take on the subject.

    And yeah, I also want to read the books on the list! 🙂

    1. This is a good perspective. Thanks for helping me to see it from this way. I still haven’t gotten to reading the books on the list! I need to do that. Thanks for the reminds. 🙂

  22. The book list is not complete. I’ve made some notes while reading it.

    She mentioned as well:

    The Optimist’s Daughter – Eudora Welty
    The Awakening – Kate Chopin

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