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It had begun before I even imagined it, precisely four years, seven months, and three days before, when Id stood in a little room at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, and learned that my mother was going to die. Some of them were just what I dreamed of having, others less so. I was going to live the rest of my life without my mother. Not because we felt so alone in our grief, but because we were so together in it, as if we were one body instead of two. She was kindhearted and forgiving, generous and naïve. That in truth my hike on the Pacific Crest Trail hadnt begun when I made the snap deci- sion to do it. It was an outfit that my mother had sewnshed made clothes for me all of my life. For some reason that sentence came fully formed into my head just then, temporarily blotting out the Fuck them prayer. I almost choked to death on what I knew before I knew. Or the one time when she screamed FUCK and broke down crying because we wouldnt clean our room. All that day of the green pantsuit, as I accompanied my mother and stepfather, Eddie, from floor to floor of the Mayo Clinic while my mother went from one test to another, a prayer marched through my head, though prayer is not the right word to describe that march. I couldnt let myself believe it then and there in that elevator and also go on breathing, so I let myself believe other things instead. Id asked my mother all through my childhood, making her tell me the story again and again, amazed and delighted by my own impetuous will. She sat with her hands folded tightly together and her ankles hooked one to the other. In reply, he took a pencil, stood it upright on the edge of the sink, and tapped it hard on the surface. One jolt and your bones could crumble like a dry cracker. Later we came out to wash our hands and faces, watching each other in the bright mirror. I sat between my mother and Eddie in my green pantsuit, the green bow miraculously still in my hair. There was a woman who had an arm that swung wildly from the elbow. There was a beautiful dark-haired woman who sat in a wheelchair. Eddie sat on my other side, but I could not look at him. A song without words, but my mother knew the words anyway and instead of answering my question she sang them softly to me. My mothers name was called then: her prescriptions were ready. They would give us five-dollar bills to buy candy from the store so they could be alone in the apartment with our mom.
There was nothing that could have been done, he told us. Radiation might reduce the size of the tumors that were growing along the entire length of her spine. A year later, he and my mom took the twelve-thousand-dollar settlement he received and with it bought forty acres of land in Aitkin County, an hour and a half west of Duluth, paying for it outright in cash. There was nothing to dif- ferentiate it from the trees and bushes and grasses and ponds and bogs that surrounded it in every direction for miles.
Eddie would continue driving up on weekends throughout the summer and then stay come fall.
Or rather, my mother, Leif, Karen, and I did, along with our two horses, our cats and our dogs, and a box of ten baby chicks my mom got for free at the feed store for buying twenty-five pounds of chicken feed.
It is voicebillowing with energy, precisethat carries Wild . She walked the Pacific Crest Trail to find forgiveness, came back with generosityand now she shares her reward with us. Its full of revelatory moments that will sometimes crush your heart and sometimes leave you breathlessly inspired. Its a book that will love you back, Kevin Sampsell, author of A Common Pornography. Wild is one of the most unflinching and emotionally honest books I've read in a long time.
By laying bare a great unspoken truth of adulthoodthat many things in life dont turn out the way you want them to, and that you can and must live through them anyway Wild feels real in many ways that many books about finding oneself do not. Strayed is a courageous, gritty, and deceptively elegant writer. Wall Street Journal Wild is the kind of candid vision quest-like memoir that you dont come across often. Then I considered the source: Cheryl Strayed, the author of a lyric yet tough-minded first novel [called] Torcha Great Lakes Book Award finalist . Shattered at 26 by her mothers death, her familys fragmenting, and the end of her marriage, Strayed upped and decided to do something way out of the realm of her experience; here she confronts snowstorms and rattlesnakes even as she confronts her personal pain. Barbara Hoffert, Library No one can write like Cheryl Strayed.