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What We're (Finally) Reading Now: 'Wild' by Cheryl Strayed


I know that I am perhaps a little late to jump on the Wild train. (It was published in 2012.) But as the movie is about to come out and I love pretentiously declaring all the differences between the book and the movie to all my friends throughout a screening and the entire way home, this week was my last chance.

You’re probably aware of the gist of the tale by now, even from movie previews alone. Cheryl Strayed needs to pull herself out of an emotional low, and her method for doing so is making an 1,100 mile hike over 3 months on the Pacific Crest Trail. She’s abused herself with drugs, she’s cheated on her husband, the memories of her dead mother lock her in perpetual grief and self-medication. She needs, for lack of better phrasing, to walk it all off.

I knew all this going in. I knew that Strayed and I share, or have shared, similar pains. I knew that she eventually healed — she’s a public figure who seems happily married and has a couple of children now. I knew that Oprah loved it, as did the millions who made it a best-seller. But what I didn’t know was that Strayed, at least on paper, is a thorny character. I found her too indulgent. Too selfish. Too keen to make every situation revolve around her. In my defense, I “met” her as a heroin-using, adulterous, grieving, mess. In her defense, that is the point of the book, entirely.

Regardless, I loved it. The journey, the writing, all of it.

It is of coming undone. Fraying at the edges and feeling all the feels. More than once, I came undone — frayed and feeling –right along with her. Strayed is fierce and she is volatile and a complete hurricane of a woman. She is not soft, and she certainly is not delicate. There were many times I buried my head in the book’s bindings, unable to look at the page and read what she was doing. There were as many times that I had to mop up my tears or muffle my laugh from my morning train-mates. And, of course, there were also times I had to put the book down, overwhelmed by her story and what memories of my own surfaced along her trek (does this mean I am also guilty of making every situation revolve around me?).

I’ve high hopes for the movie, but I hope you’ll take a peek at these book pages before you see it.

What does everyone else think? Has everyone else already read it?


Nick Hornby shares the oddest question he gets about writing female characters

Many readers know Nick Hornby for his music-tinged novels like High Fidelity and Juliet, Naked—a number of which have been adapted for film and television. But the British writer has also achieved great success as a screenwriter adapting the works of others, the latest of which will be Wild, starring Reese Witherspoon.

Wild, like his previous film projects An Education and Brooklyn, is based on a remarkable memoir written by a woman—and people can’t stop asking him one question in particular: What’s it like to be a man writing a female character?


Cheryl Strayed makes 'Wild' connection with her half-sister

In the 2012 memoir Wild, author Cheryl Strayed sets out on a grueling hiking trip to help get past some personal losses, including her mother’s death and her divorce. As it turns out, that journey led to another, unexpected outcome: The connection to a half-sister she’d never met.

Over the summer, Strayed’s half-sister just happened to check out Wild at her local library. “She was just interested in books on travel,” Strayed told NPR. “She’s not a hiker but … that hiking boot on the cover caught her eye. And she was just halfway into chapter one when she said she sat bolt upright in bed and realized that we had the same father.”

The two have stayed in contact via email but have yet to meet in person, though Strayed hopes that a meeting is in their future. “It’s been really pretty interesting to think about: What is family? And what is a connection? You know, obviously this isn’t someone I grew up with. I’m meeting her as an adult. And … our connection is through this man who neither one of us has a relationship with now. And so how are we sisters? And how do we proceed?”

Listen to the full interview with Strayed on NPR’s website.

Cheryl Strayed talks 'Wild,' 'Tiny Beautiful Things,' Oprah, and 'Dear Sugar'

When Cheryl Strayed initially set out to write about the three-month hike on the unforgiving Pacific Coast Trail that she took at the age of 26, she expected it to be a long essay. It turned into a memoir, Wild, somewhat on accident, and now it’s an Oprah’s Book Club pick, sitting at No. 1 on the Hardcover Nonfiction list.

Before Wild became a major best-seller, Strayed was an accomplished essayist and novelist (2006’s Torch), and she already had a large, passionate reader following in “Dear Sugar,” the terrific, at times brutally honest advice column she’s been writing for since March 2010. She wrote as Sugar anonymously until she outed herself in February of this year. Vintage has released Tiny Beautiful Things, a paperback collection of her advice columns, some of which haven’t been published before.

Very much in demand these days, Strayed has been traveling the country talking to fans of both her new books. She took a moment to talk about Oprah, Wild, and Tiny Beautiful Things. She also has some helpful advice to all the aspiring writers out there. READ FULL STORY

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