This book gained fame when the film adaptation was released, starring Reese Witherspoon as the leading character Cheryl Strayed. The book is a non fiction style journal told in the first person of Cheryl’s journey hiking the Pacific Crest Trail from South California to Portland, Oregon.
I wasn’t sure what to expect when selecting this book, but after blasting through it in less then a week, I was sad as I turned the last page, to realise I had come to the end.
The story has been composed over several years as Cheryl kept a journal whilst making her 3 month journey across California, as she had always wanted to become a writer. However after dropping out of college due to the sudden death of her mother from stage 4 lung cancer, she had soon given up on this dream.
The loss of a parent is a difficult experience to go through, however it affects Cheryl in a way that she was neither prepared for or able to handle. She starts on a path of self destruction, cheating on her husband, using heroin and disconnecting from those closest to her.
Several years after her mothers death, she stumbles across the book The Pacific Crest Trail, Volume 1: California and it is at this point that the idea to hike the PCT is born. The real story begins as she takes her first steps on the trail, accompanied only by her back pack, which she lovingly names Monster due to its almost unmanageable weight.
Cheryl has the ability to write in a way that enables the reader to feel the excruciating pain of hiking in boots that are too tight. To feel the hunger pains that come from walking 15 miles in one day and the fear of running out of water in the middle of a desert.
The book is filled with various stories of the different people she meets along the trail and how even though they are total strangers, within minutes they become beacons of hope, inspiration and motivation. They all share a common goal which unites them in a way that is different to the conventional bonds between friends, colleagues and family.
You may be thinking how can a 3 month hike be an interesting read? I can assure you that there is never a dull moment in this book, from the stories of bears to Strayed’s poetic descriptions of the landscape it is truly magical.
I spent a week being totally absorbed in the PCT trail, experiencing the highs and lows of such an expedition as if it were my own journey.
It’s an intimate book, in which Cheryl has opened up her heart and bared her soul as she trekked this voyage of self discovery. What she achieves over the course of 3 months is nothing short of heroic.
“Thank you. Not just for the long walk … for everything the trail had taught me and everything I couldn’t yet know” – Cheryl Strayed