The book of the month for the PBF Book Club was Wild by Cheryl Strayed. It’s time to discuss this vivid memoir!

wild cheryl strayed

Brief Summary

Wild is a memoir about Cheryl Strayed’s journey on the Pacific Crest Trail. Following her mother’s death and the fallout of her marriage, Strayed walked more than 1,000 miles of the trail by herself at the age of 26, and documents the experience in vivid detail.

My Review

If I could describe Cheryl Strayed in one word it would be conflicted. When I first started reading Wild, I would’ve selected the word brave.

You have to be brave to carry a monstrous pack on your back and hike into the woods for days and days on end alone. You have to be brave to continue hiking after encountering a long horn bull, a bear and a handful of rattlesnakes. You have to be brave to hitchhike with strangers. Or you have to feel like you have nothing to lose.

Memoirs are usually pretty hit or miss for me. I rarely find a memoir that is a real “page turner” and, while I wouldn’t consider Wild extremely riveting, it held my attention. I had a hard time identifying with Cheryl Strayed, and found her decisions confusing at times, though I felt for her since her life was obviously filled with a lot of pain.

Her descriptions of the wilderness painted a beautiful picture. When she was overcome by the heat and the weight of her backpack, I felt it, too. When she was nervous about hopping into a car with strangers, I felt butterflies in my stomach. Strayed captured her journey in a way that made me feel like I was there.

During the first half of the book, I found myself hanging onto the hope that as I continued to read Wild, Cheryl would work through her emotions and the issues she was facing in her life. She wanted to change and I wanted her to change. As I kept reading, I found myself admiring Cheryl for going so far out of her comfort zone in an effort to make a serious change in her life. I admired her for being self aware enough to know that a change was necessary.

Some of my favorite parts of Cheryl’s journey occurred when she met new people on the trail. Learning more about the other hikers and the people who set out to accomplish something so difficult and challenging intrigued me and captivated me.

Wild was different than any other book I’ve read and one that made me look inside myself as I joined Cheryl on her tremendous hike. I’m not sure I’d highly recommend it, but for those who may be going through an emotional or complicated time and feel like a change might be necessary, reading Wild might just motivate you to do something, believe in yourself and step out of your comfort zone.

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You can find additional reviews of Wild on the following blogs:

Discussion Questions

  • Did you find Cheryl likeable? Why or why not?
  • What stories within Wild did you most enjoy? Cheryl’s interactions with fellow hikers? The stories from her past? The time she spent alone? 


  1. Cicerone says

    I enjoyed the book and found myself reading it for an insight into a contemporary young adult and how she dealt with life. I just finished the book and I largely agree with the review. Especially where it says “…I was expecting more of a revelation…” Cheryl, like many of us as young adults, were wanderers without a firm destination in life. Perhaps a product of naive or bad parenting… love is not enough.

    The message of the book, if it seems less than profound, seems insufficient. Merely finishing a large and difficult journey just to prove to yourself you can do it is just the beginning of valuable life lessons. But, at times people need to do whatever it takes as best they can to plod ahead.

    The absence of any spiritual context, with the exception of a few Native American words, leaves the story somewhat two dimensional. I suppose agnostics and atheists might feel more satisfied with the level of “found” in the subtitle context.

    All-in-all a bold journey, nevertheless.


  2. Helen says

    I’m reading this for the second time. The first time I was shocked, repulsed, in awe of, and thoroughly interested in Cheryl and her journey. I ripped through the book. Now I’m going slower, trying to absorb it more. I have done backpacking. I have gone on journeys “alone” though not as arduous or as dangerous as hers.I also lost my mother way too young. I remember being completely lost after she died. I didn’t have sex with strangers or shoot heroin, but I did wail, not eat right for months and lost a lot of weight, stay in bed when I should have been productive, forget where I was and what I was doing sometimes. I don’t think I was very like able right after my mom died either. Likeable is one more way the male culture puts women in their place. Who cares whether she was Likeable or not? She surely didn’t. She was trying to survive, way down on the Maaslow’s hierarchy from Likeable. Her will and her intelligence eventually got her through that dark time. And, yes, on trails, people are nice to each other. I always find it that way. We’re a small band of humans in a big natural world, and it feels right to be a tribe, even if for only a few days at a time.


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