I have not watched the Reese Witherspoon movie based on this book – I’m not sure that I will to be honest. The hype, however, was enough to get me to actually read the book (or ebook in my case). I had also seen an interview on Australian television with the author in which this book and the author’s experience were discussed. I, therefore, had some idea of what to expect with the book and approached it with a measure of reticence. It still was not quite what I expected, though I expect this was more of a case of what I had hoped to see in the book than what it actually sought to be itself.
This book is a personal memoir, not just of Cheryl Strayed’s trek along portions of the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert through California, Oregon and Washington State (which actually doesn’t feature greatly in the book in any leading way really), but of her personal journey from a time just prior to her mother’s tragic death with cancer, through a period of self-destructive behavior that impacted on her family and what Strayed would have you believe was her healing. It is in your face at times and quite confronting. At other times there are periods of humour and human warmness.
This book has the potential to polarise sentiment, with some believing Strayed’s journey to be inspirational and even heroic, while others will inevitably move to the other end of the spectrum. I confess to being closer to the latter grouping of readers. To me, this is a self-indulgent whine-fest, from someone ill prepared for her trek and seemingly for life itself. Certainly there appears to be significant personal growth by the end of the book and this is a wonderful thing. If you can get past the initial early chapters, which can be difficult if you aren’t impressed with the seeming constant whining and whinging, the reading experience does improve along the way.
I think I would give it 3 out of 5 as a rating.
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