Cheryl Strayed went through a very tough time in her life in the mid 90's. She lost her mother to a very fast moving cancer, cheated on her husband and then divorced him. She moved from waitress job to waitress job, hoping that something would appear or she would get a big break. At times she was both promiscuous and an illegal drug imbiber, exposing herself to diseases that in her prior life, she may not have. In the midst of these struggles, Ms. Strayed decides that in order to exorcise her demons, she must hike the Pacific Coast Trail from the Southernmost tip of California to Canada for a grand total of 1100 miles.
This is a memoir that encapsulates a trek through beautiful countryside as well as a meditation on loss. Strayed describes her emotional and mental landscape as thoroughly as she describes the landscape that she is hiking through - she doesn't spare any discussions of the losses that she has endured. What disappointed me a little bit was that Ms. Strayed didn't hike the entire trail. A good bit of it was snowed in so she ended up hiking only bits in California and then all of Washington. What I loved was that Cheryl was able to dig herself out of the horribly dark place that she was in by hiking this intense bit of trail. And I was so impressed that she was able to put her experiences, her bad points and her struggles out there for all of us voyeurs to partake in and she did it well. The result of her walk was hamburger feet and physical pain; however it was also self - improvement and the ability to know that she can get beyond anything.
There were definite moments that I was frustrated by this book - I couldn't believe that Ms. Strayed hiked for so long and couldn't figure out how to care for her feet (which, when you're hiking like this, are the most important parts of your body!). I felt so badly for Cheryl's ex-husband, who was hurt so badly by Cheryl and who couldn't figure out how to help Cheryl grieve. I was frustrated that Cheryl left him for a man that exposed her to a dangerous and illegal drug culture. On the other hand, I loved her voice and seeing her struggle with those same issues and succeed. All in all this was a tremendous book and memoir - one that all should read.