You’re invited! I’d love for you to enter my drawing for a free giveaway of the great book I’m reviewing today. The book is Wild: From Lost To Found On The Pacific Crest Trail, by Cheryl Strayed. To enter the drawing, subscribe to Diamond-Cut Life by typing your email in at the right. (You’ll receive my posts on Thursdays and Sundays; you can unsubscribe with a click at any time.) If you’re already a subscriber, just let me know here that you want to be in the drawing.
Ms. Strayed’s life fell apart after her mother died painfully of cancer, her marriage ended, her family scattered, and she got involved with heroin. In 1995 at age 26, she decided to break with her past and forge a new path. She would hike the Pacific Crest Trail, alone, from the Mojave desert of southern California to Washington.
Oh, and she’d never gone backpacking before.
Her three-month, 1,100 mile trek breaks and reshapes her, like a fractured bone getting rebroken so it can finally lie straight and true. Like Kristin Kimball’s city-girl-turns-farmer memoir The Dirty Life, Wild is about surrender to a physical life in the outdoors. Like Laurence Gonzales, the author of Deep Survival, Ms. Strayed is a risk-taker who becomes savvy about managing risk. She could have died many times on the PCT. My heart almost stopped, for example, when she ran out of water in the Mojave desert. But she perseveres and survives, through crisis after crisis, constantly updating her mental map and building her skills.
Like Daniel Suelo, the subject of The Man Who Quit Money by Mark Sundeen, she didn’t let lack of money get in the way of her joy. She did her odyssey on a shoestring, with no cash other than the $20 bills she’d tucked into the food resupply boxes she had mailed to post offices along the way. The generousity of strangers is a steady theme in her account. When we put ourselves out there in the world in brave, seeking ways, people typically want to help. We in turn get to help and encourage others, sometimes in that moment, sometimes years later. Wild is Ms. Strayed’s big give-back. Oprah Winfrey chose it for her book club, and interviewed Ms. Strayed here.
This is a diamond-cut story in that Ms. Strayed finds nature, relationships, physicality and spiritual growth to be the building blocks of a joyful life. Ms. Strayed has been a Portlander ever since ending her trek in 1995. I wasn’t surprised to learn in her acknowledgments that she’s in the same writing group with Lidia Yuknavitch, another brilliant local writer, one that I loved meeting last year and drinking strawberry margueritas with.
In my ever-growing Books I Love page, I don’t assign one to five stars to books. Every good book weaves its own world that its reader gets to climb into and inhabit like a lovely, swinging hammock, the cloth fitting their body just so, in a way it wouldn’t fit anyone else. In particular, having experienced for myself the head-hurting, life-changing effort it takes to write a book (Revelle: a novel) it would feel disrespectful to me to rank some books as inherently better than others. So I’ll just say that it’s hard for me to imagine anyone not liking Wild. It’s a heartful, exciting story that leaves us wonderfully awake to the fact that hard things are wonderfully worth doing.
If you’d like to be in the drawing for this bestselling, hardcover book, enter your email at top right. I’m giving away a brand-new copy only because I ordered it for myself, unaware that Dana, a friend and reader in Tucson Arizona (he of hippie-accusation fame) had already sent me a copy as a gift. Dana himself hiked the Pacific Crest Trail as a through-hiker in 1979. He knew I was exhilarated by climbing Mount St. Helens last month, and imagined I’d love Wild. He was right. If you’ve found your way to Diamond-Cut Life, I think you will, too.