In “Wild” Cheryl Strayed tells the story of rediscovering herself on the long, arduous path known as the Pacific Crest Trail. After her mother dies from cancer, her life falls apart, culminating in a divorce, drugs, promiscuity and an unwanted pregnancy. A chance encounter with a PCT guidebook in a checkout line spurs Cheryl to make a rash decision: she was going to hike the Pacific Crest Trail.

Wild by Cheryl Strayed

For months, Cheryl studied the trail guidebook like a bible, made multiple trips to REI for advice and gear, and planned out her trek. When she hit the trail with her pack, so heavy she could barely lift it, she still had no actual hiking experience. It didn’t take very long for Cheryl to start second-guessing her decision. “Within forty minutes, the voice inside my head was screaming What have I gotten myself into?” And yet, she pushed forward.

Cheryl tells how she lost toenails, had skin rubbed off where her pack rested on her body, and ended most days with barely enough energy to pitch her tent. She shares stories of other hikers she met along the way who treated her like a friend, and shared knowledge and experience with her in the time they spent together. During the long stretches where she was hiking on her own, she reminisced about her mother, siblings and ex-husband.

I love the raw emotion and realness of this book. Cheryl shares her triumphs, as well and her failures. My favorite part of the book was her ongoing internal monologue as she convinced herself to keep going, and occasionally considered quitting. I can totally see myself doing and saying the same things, or feeling some of the same emotions. It also sparked a little inspiration in me, with the thought “If she can do it, so can I.”

Not a reader? That’s ok. You can still experience Wild. It was made into a movie in 2014, starring Reese Witherspoon as Cheryl. I’ve seen the movie several times. Like most book-to-movie transformations, some minor details were changed and others left out. Although I very much enjoyed the movie, I still think: