From Author Cheryl Strayed
I wrote the last line of my first book, Torch, and then spent an hour crying while lying on a cool tile floor in a house on a hot Brazilian island. After I finished my second book, Wild, I walked alone for miles under a clear blue sky on an empty road in the Oregon Outback. I sat bundled in my coat on a cold patio at midnight staring up at the endless December stars after completing my third book, Tiny Beautiful Things. There are only a handful of other days in my life--my wedding, the births of my children--that I remember as vividly as those solitary days on which I finished my books. The settings and situations were different, but the feeling was the same: an overwhelming mix of joy and gratitude, humility and relief, pride and wonder. After much labor, I'd made this thing. A book. Though it wasn't technically that yet.
The real book came later--after more work, but this time it involved various others, including agents, publishers, editors, designers, and publicists, all of whose jobs are necessary but sometimes indecipherable to me. They're the ones who transformed the thousands of words I'd privately and carefully conjured into something that could be shared with other people. "I wrote this!" I exclaimed in amazement when I first held each actual, physical book in my hands. I wasn't amazed that it existed; I was amazed by what its existence meant: that it no longer belonged to me.
Two months before Wild was published I stood on a Mexican beach at sunset with my family assisting dozens of baby turtles on their stumbling journey across the sand, then watching as they disappeared into the sea. The junction between writer and author is a bit like that. In one role total vigilance is necessary; in the other, there's nothing to do but hope for the best. A book, like those newborn turtles, will ride whatever wave takes it.
It's deeply rewarding to me when I learn that something I wrote moved or inspired or entertained someone; and it's crushing to hear that my writing bored or annoyed or enraged another. But an author has to stand back from both the praise and the criticism once a book is out in the world. The story I chose to write in Wild for no other reason than I felt driven to belongs to those who read it, not me. And yet I'll never forget what it once was, long before I could even imagine how gloriously it would someday be swept away from me.
“Spectacular. . . . A literary and human triumph.” —The New York Times Book Review
"I was on the edge of my seat. . . . It is just a wild ride of a read . . . stimulating, thought-provoking, soul-enhancing." —Oprah Winfrey, on Wild, first selection of her Book Club 2.0
“Strayed’s language is so vivid, sharp and compelling that you feel the heat of the desert, the frigid ice of the High Sierra, and the breathtaking power of one remarkable woman finding her way—and herself—one brave step at a time.” —People (4 stars)
"An addictive, gorgeous book that not only entertains, but leaves us the better for having read it. . . . Strayed is a formidable talent." —The Boston Globe
"One of the most original, heartbreaking, and beautiful American memoirs in years. . . . Awe-inspiring." —NPR Books
“Cinematic. . . . A rich, riveting story. . . . Our verdict: A.” —Entertainment Weekly
“Pretty much obliterated me. I was reduced, during the book’s final third, to puddle-eyed cretinism. . . . As loose and sexy and dark as an early Lucinda Williams song. It’s got a punk spirit and makes an earthy and American sound. . . . The cumulative welling up I experienced during Wild was partly a response to that too infrequent sight: that of a writer finding her voice, and sustaining it, right in front of your eyes.” —Dwight Garner, The New York Times
“Brave seems like the right word to sum up this woman and her book. . . . Strayed’s journey is exceptional.” —San Francisco Chronicle
“One of the best books I’ve read in the last five or ten years. . . . Wild is angry, brave, sad, self-knowing, redemptive, raw, compelling, and brilliantly written, and I think it’s destined to be loved by a lot of people, men and women, for a very long time.” —Nick Hornby
“Devastating and glorious. . . . By laying bare a great unspoken truth of adulthood—that many things in life don’t 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.” —Slate
“Incisive and telling. . . . [Strayed] has the ineffable gift every writer longs for of saying exactly what she means in lines that are both succinct and poetic. . . . an inborn talent for articulating angst and the gratefulness that comes when we overcome it.” —The Washington Post
“Vivid, touching and ultimately inspiring account of a life unraveling and of the journey that put it back together.” —The Wall Street Journal
“Strayed . . . catalogs her epic hike . . . with a raw emotional power that makes the book difficult to put down. . . . In walking, and finally, years later, in writing, Strayed finds her way again. And her path is as dazzlingly beautiful as it is tragic.” —Los Angeles Times
“A fearless story, told in honest prose that is wildly lyrical as often as it is dirtily physical.” —Minneapolis Star Tribune
“This isn’t Cinderella in hiking boots, it’s a woman coming out of heartbreak, darkness and bad decisions with a clear view of where she has been. . . . There are adventures and characters aplenty, from heartwarming to dangerous, but Strayed resists the temptation to overplay or sweeten such moments. Her pacing is impeccable as she captures her impressive journey.” —The Seattle Times
“Strayed’s journey was at least as transcendent as it was turbulent. She faced down hunger, thirst, injury, fatigue, boredom, loss, bad weather, and wild animals. Yet she also reached new levels of joy, accomplishment, courage, peace, and found extraordinary companionship.” —The Christian Science Monitor
“Strayed writes a crisp scene; her sentences hum with energy. She can describe a trail-parched yearning for Snapple like no writer I know. . . . It becomes impossible not to root for her.” —The Plain Dealer
“Brilliant. . . . Cheryl Strayed emerges from her grief-stricken journey as a practitioner of a rare and vital vocation. She has become an intrepid cartographer of the human heart.” —Houston Chronicle
“A deeply honest memoir about mother and daughter, solitude and courage, and regaining footing one step at a time.” —Vogue
“This is a big, brave, break-your-heart-and-put-it-back-together-again kind of book. Cheryl Strayed is a courageous, gritty, and deceptively elegant writer. She walked the PCT to find forgiveness, came back with generosity—and now she shares her reward with us. I snorted with laughter, I wept uncontrollably; I don’t even want to know the person who isn’t going to love Wild. This is a beautifully made, utterly realized book.” —Pam Houston, author of Contents May Have Shifted and Cowboys are My Weakness