Perched high on the library’s shelf stood Reese Witherspoon who immediately attracted me because of the accolades she has received for both her acting and the movie itself. So I grabbed the book quickly and set out on a journey with Cheryl Strayed (the author of Wild).
The book is about a woman who hikes the Pacific Crest Trail despite having any training of doing such a thing before. After countless hardships and missteps, Cheryl decides to hike 1, 100 miles all by herself to heal her soul.
The most incredible thing about this book is that it’s not just Cheryl that experiences a cathartic journey. It’s the reader too. Her audacious vulnerability combined with beautiful imagery is the magic of this book. You can’t help but feel like you have known Cheryl all her life. More so, you even become her. Sure you may have never done heroine or been as promiscuous as her but you can feel her every emotion. So when she feels sad, you do too. When she is scared, you are too. When she is hungry or hurt, you are hungry or hurt. When she’s relishing in the abundance of food, you are too. And most importantly, when she achieves catharsis, you can feel its effects in your body too. This character arc is gripping and takes you all in.
Cheryl also does an excellent job at flashbacks. They are neatly woven into her present journey and presented as memories that come alive due to some trigger on her trail. You never feel that any part of her past comes out of the blue, they are all nicely tied into the purpose she is trying to hit home. For example, when he gets a call from her ex-husband, she recalls her long relationship with him and how it has affected her life. It really helps the reader to understand the significance of that moment.
However, the book could have really been shorter. I found myself becoming tired of her monotonous journey. Sure that was also the point that she was trying to hit home, that the monotony and isolation helped her heal. But to repeat those things over and over with significance didn’t make sense to me. For example, why did we need to know about her every encounter with a rattle snake when it was exactly the same? Or the description of her toe nails falling off. There were numerous encounters she could have left out that didn’t add depth to the story. They didn’t help the reader understand how that particular situation really helped her heal.
All in all, Cheryl manages to clearly articulate her why this journey was so important to her and what it did for her. There is no denying that it takes a special kind of talent to gain the reader’s empathy and take them through a perhaps monotonous but enriching journey. And just for that, I would recommend reading the book to get a different perspective on life and to live through the beautiful scenery on the PCT.
I leave you with this quote from the book:
“Fear begets fear. Power begets power. I willed myself to beget power. And it wasn’t long before I actually wasn’t afraid.”
**Disclaimer: I watched the movie after the reading entire book.**
Oscar noms typically give you an indication of a good movie or at least one to consider watching. Wild is definitely one of them. A unique story for a movie primarily centered around one character essentially just walking.
Despite the unique subject of the movie, it just doesn’t live up to its hype. The degree to which I could connect with Cheryl, I just couldn’t with Reese Witherspoon. As smooth as the flashbacks were in the book, they were just as choppy in the movie. In fact, most scenes felt choppy. For example, when Reese Witherspoon breaks down after she meets a boy with “issues” the scene seems disconnected. There is a weird pause between when she says goodbye to him and when she starts crying. For me, I just couldn’t connect the two easily (even though I had already read it in the book!).
Even though Reese Witherspoon’s acting is very commendable, the direction doesn’t translate the depth of the character’s emotions well into the movie. You see glimpses of Cheryl in Reese Witherspoon and those are the most precious parts of the movie for me. It showcased her conflict better than I could have imagined while reading the book. Unfortunately, those moments are a dime a dozen.
I wouldn’t recommend watching the movie because you aren’t missing much (unless you’re a Reese Witherspoon fan, then definitely watch it for her). Even the cinematography left me disappointed because it was the one thing I was looking forward to the most. So whether you watch the movie or not, it won’t make a dent in your life. Go read the book instead!
P.S. if you have read the book or watched the movie, I would love to hear what you thought!