Rarely do I watch the movie before reading the book, but for “Wild,” I made an exception.
I shouldn’t have.
The movie with Reese Witherspoon is quite good, but without the so much of the inner life revealed in Cheryl Strayed’s memoir, it’s just an adventure story. Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail is so much more.
I’m a good three years late to the party (Oprah picked this for her book club in 2012), but I picked up Wild while in the midst of a bunch of sociology tomes (Mindful and Selfish, Shallow and Self Absorbed: 16 Writers on the Decision Not to Have Kids). I got bogged down with weighty arguments, and I wanted a change of pace. Wild was that. And more. And I finished it in a week.
It’s an adventure story, yes, and some describe it as a love story, too (the protagonist is mourning her mother who died too young), but the descriptions of the Pacific Crest Trail are so vivid and the writing is so compelling I wanted to put on a pair hiking boots and start climbing a mountain. And I don’t even like to camp!
Wild is memoir at its best: A sliver of someone’s life that reveals a personal journey, complete with all life’s messy mistakes and misguided assumptions.