Thursday, April 4, 2013

From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail
by Cheryl Strayed

So I was really not excited about this book. People kept recommending it and I just wasn’t interested. I finally caved and decided to listen to the audiobook. I got about 1/3 of the way through it and I just couldn’t stand Cheryl. She was whining about everything and it seemed to me like she was just using the tragedy she’d experienced to justifying her bad behavior. My Mom died when I was younger too, so I feel pretty strongly about people using things like that as excuses to make horrible life choices. Grief does not give you the right to commit adultery or use heroine.

That being said, Cheryl grew on me as the book progressed. She was so honest about her experiences. She could have sugar-coated it or painted herself in a better light, but instead she just lays herself bare, faults and all. The result is an incredibly intense book that was surprisingly powerful.

Cheryl’s memoir mainly covers her time hiking 1,100 miles on the Pacific Crest Trail. It flashes back and forth between the grueling hike, her childhood and her early twenties when her mother died and her marriage ended.

She writes with such delicate attention to detail that you can almost feel the blisters forming on her aching feet. There’s one disturbing scene with a horse that remains particularly ingrained in my mind. Cheryl is just so raw throughout the book. She’s was an inexperienced hiker and wasn’t prepared for her trip, but she still pushes on. She is trying to process her grief, the bad decisions she’s made, her future life, etc. all while putting her body through the most intense physical experience of her life.

BOTTOM LINE: I struggled through the beginning, but I’m glad I stuck with it. Cheryl might be a very different person from me, but her willingness to be honest about her struggle made for an intense memoir that I couldn’t put down.

Other thoughts:

Image from here. 


Elisabeth said...

I, too, was pretty disgusted by how whiny and badly behaved Cheryl was. I could not get past the beginning. It's nice to hear that the book grew on you, though. Maybe I'll have to give it another try.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Elisabeth - I'm glad I stuck with it, but I really disliked her in the whole first half of the book!

Nikki Steele @ BookPairing.com said...

I don't know that I ended up loving Cheryl even by the end. She definitely grew as a character and I loved seeing the trail from her eyes, but too much of it was navel gazing for me. I loved A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson so much more because he managed to give a good look at himself, but also talk a great deal about the history of the trail and whatnot. Then again, Bryson is always gold so it's a pretty unfair comparison.

kay - Infinite Shelf said...

Friends have been recommending this one to me, too, but the few pages I tried to read didn't really do anything for me. However, seeing how your mind changed about it as you read makes me consider giving it a fair try. Plus, I love honest narrators!

Care said...

I did like the interesting books she brought along with her. She did seem to keep a sense of humor, too.

Bybee said...

One thing that struck me about the book is how much the world has changed in the way of technology since Cheryl did her hike.

Jenners said...

It takes guts to be as open and real as she was in this book. I read this after reading her "Dear Sugar" book (which will make you just love her) so I came in with warm feelings toward her. I know quite a few people came away from this book just HATING her.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Nikki - I never ended up loving her, but her style grew on me. I LOVED A Walk in the Woods!

Kay - It might be worth another shot. I honestly hated the first section of the book.

Care - I loved seeing the books she picked to read because I put so much thought into picking books out for my trips.

Bybee - No kidding! If she'd gone now she could just take a cell phone. That would have changed everything.

Jenners - Reading you review made me want to keep going when I was about 50 pages in and I'm very glad I did. I may have to try Dear Sugar.

Trish @ Love, Laughter, Insanity said...

I'm glad you ended up liking it in the end. I read this before a lot of the hype and I'm glad I did because I think otherwise my opinion would have been more colored (I loved it!). I was so sad when Fizzy Jill went on and on about Cheryl's whining--felt like I was taking it personally almost. ;) Didn't this make you want to put on your hiking boots??

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Trish - It made me want to break in a pair of hiking boots long before I left on the trip! It did make me want to travel though. I love the random friendships you form when you're traveling.

Anonymous said...

I really struggled with the beginning just because mothers dying of cancer is a touchy subject for me and, like you said, using that as an excuse for poor life decisions is hard for me to stand. But she grew on me as well. I didn't love the book, but I am glad I read it. Just hope people don't decide to use it as a guidebook to hiking.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

ardentreader - I felt the same way. I don't think it's ever okay to use that as an excuse for bad behavior. You make your own choices with how you deal with things.