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The Washington Post A big, brave, break-your-heart-and-put-it-back-together-again kind of book. Mira Bartk, author of The Memory Palace A vivid, touching, and ultimately inspiring account of a life unraveling, and of the journey that put it back together. So many heal-myself memoirs are available that initially I hesitated about [Wild]. Wild [is] Strayeds account of her 1,100-mile solo hike along the Pacific Crest Trail, from the Mojave Desert to Washington State.
Strayed has the ineffable gift every writer longs for, of saying exactly what she means in lines that are both succinct and poetic. Pam Houston, author of Contents May Have Shifted Strayed reminds us of what it means to be fully alive, even in the face of catastrophe, physical and psychic hardship, and loss.
And finally, once Id actually gone and done it, walked all those miles for all those days, there was the realization that what Id thought was the beginning had not really been the beginning at all. My siblings and I had been made to swallow raw cloves of garlic when we had colds. The tests at the Mayo Clinic would prove that, refut- ing what the doctors in Duluth had said. She was going to leave my life at the same moment that I came into hers, I thought. We were her kids, her comrades, the end of her and the beginning. She was optimistic and serene, except a few times when she lost her temper and spanked us with a wooden spoon.
It is about forgiveness and grief and bravery and hope. Ann Hood, author of The Knitting Circle Cheryl Strayed can sure tell a story. He skinned her knees dragging her down a sidewalk in broad daylight by her hair. By twenty-eight she managed to leave him for the last time.
When my mother had done so, she climbed onto a padded table with white paper stretched over it. Shed waited me out until my head fell into her palms and I took a breath and came back to life. I thought about my older sister, Karen, and my younger brother, Leif. My prayer was different now: A year, a year, a year. She put her hand on mine and said, I used to listen to that song when I was young. When she met Eddie, she didnt think it would work because he was eight years younger than she, but they fell in love anyway. He was twenty-five when we met him and twenty-seven when he married our mother and promised to be our father; a carpenter who could make and fix anything.
Such as if a doctor told you that you were going to die soon, youd be taken to a room with a gleaming wooden desk. We were led into an examining room, where a nurse instructed my mother to remove her shirt and put on a cotton smock with strings that dangled at her sides. Id fainted oncefurious, age three, holding my breath because I didnt want to get out of the bathtub, too young to remember it myself. Shed held out her hands and watched me turn blue, my mother had always told me. She held it stiffly with the other hand, trying to calm it. She wore a purple hat and a handful of diamond rings. She spoke in Spanish to the people gathered around her, her family and perhaps her husband. If I looked at him we would both crumble like dry crackers. Paper roses, paper roses, oh how real those roses seemed to be, she sang. Look both ways, shed call after us as we fled like a pack of hungry dogs.
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.
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.