While the dilemma and heartbreak in this story arent especially unique, nor shocking (the death of a parent and the author, Cheryl Strayed, experiencing emotional upheaval and chaos because of such), what is riveting and compelling in “Wild” is how Strayed writes about the contradictions of human emotion and experience. She is a poetic, raw, honest writer of the human soul.
Cheryl Strayed writes with poignancy about the nuances of her and her mothers relationship, on the event of losing her mother to death. This moment, unhinging her heart. Strayed spirals into depression, even dancing on the edge of drug addiction, lurching within a grasping wildness within the shadowy aftermath of losing her mother. Hollowed out inside, empty and desperate in her aching, Strayed seeks the filling of this hole in her heart in all the wrong places. In the very ones that in fact, will simply widen its chasm.
Destroying her marriage to a great love, all while knowing that is what she is doing and yet, continuing to proceed with such. Not feeling, in this phase of her life, any other way at this time. In the process, breaking both her own heart and his.
She takes off, lost and seeking, of what she is not fully sure, to hike the Pacific Crest Trail. During her time hiking and journeying solo, Strayed comes face to face with herself. Coming to access her inner resourcefulness, bravery, and healing. Courageously facing the parts of herself that, as of late, are in dire need of shifting and growth, of letting go or places in which the asking of forgiveness is needed.
Where “Wild” excels though and etches itself into the readers heart (at least, it did so in mine) is in Strayed inner emotional exploration and discovery. Strayed is compelling in her parcing out the nuanced contradictions of human feeling.
Such as, that one can love another person deeply, all while needing to leave that very person- for whatever the reason may be. That love is not synonymous with staying, or even, with straying. That you can both love someone immensely, all while experiencing moments of anger and even loathing for this same someone. That both anger and love can co-exist. That they are not mutually exclusive of one another. Or, of yearning, with every fiber of ones being, to give up while knowing that the moment you do, are sure to regret it. Or, that one can feel the fear, even terror, and do it anyway. That a person can venture down dark, dead end pathways, in the glaringly wrong direction, and still turn around. Coming back in the way of light, hope, growth, and joy. That a person can choose healing and health, even after pursuing very much the opposite.
“Wild” is a refreshingly honest, real tale of self discovery, of the downward falling into that avoided realm of emotional chaos- to which we are all more susceptible than we tend to think, no matter how strong, and then the making of the choice toward healing, bravery, and personal growth. Her writing is poetic, beautiful, insightful, and emotional.
Wild appeals to the adventurer, the romantic, the conflicted and confused, the vulnerable, as well as the real, brave, and openhearted aspects in us all.