Non-Fiction

Review GPA: WILD by Cheryl Strayed

In Review GPA, we translate reviews of notable new books into letter grades and determine a grade point average.

Wild by Cheryl Strayed

Publication Date: March 20, 2012

Genre: Memoir

Publisher: Knopf

Publisher’s Synopsis:

A powerful, blazingly honest memoir: the story of an eleven-hundred-mile solo hike that broke down a young woman reeling from catastrophe—and built her back up again.

At twenty-two, Cheryl Strayed thought she had lost everything. In the wake of her mother’s death, her family scattered and her own marriage was soon destroyed. Four years later, with nothing more to lose, she made the most impulsive decision of her life: to hike the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to Washington State—and to do it alone. She had no experience as a long-distance hiker, and the trail was little more than “an idea, vague and outlandish and full of promise.” But it was a promise of piecing back together a life that had come undone.

Strayed faces down rattlesnakes and black bears, intense heat and record snowfalls, and both the beauty and loneliness of the trail. Told with great suspense and style, sparkling with warmth and humor, Wild vividly captures the terrors and pleasures of one young woman forging ahead against all odds on a journey that maddened, strengthened, and ultimately healed her.

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From the Kirkus Review:

Gold Star:

“A candid, inspiring narrative of the author’s brutal physical and psychological journey through a wilderness of despair to a renewed sense of self.”

Demerit:

None.

Grade: A-

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From The New York Times review by Dani Shapiro

Gold Star:

“But in “Wild,” the two tales Strayed tells, of her difficult past and challenging present, are delivered in perfect balance. Not only am I not an adventurer myself, but I am not typically a reader of wilderness stories. Yet I was riveted step by precarious step through Strayed’s encounters with bears, rattlesnakes, mountain lion scat, ice, record snow and predatory men.”

Demerit:

None.

Grade: A

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From The New York Times review by Dwight Garner:

Gold Star:

“It’s uplifting, but not in the way of many memoirs, where the uplift makes you feel that you’re committing mental suicide. This book is 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.”

Demerit:

None.

Grade: A

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From The Washington Post review by Fiona Zublin:

Gold Star:

“Some memoirs make the steps between grief and healing so clear that the path seems easy for readers to follow. Strayed, on the contrary, respects mystery. She knows that her hike revived her soul but doesn’t pretend to understand, minute by minute, exactly how that happened. No epiphanies here, no signs from the gods. Just a healthy respect for the uncertainty we all live with, and an inborn talent for articulating angst and the gratefulness that comes when we overcome it.

Demerit:wild

None.

Grade: A

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From The Wall Street Journal review by Michael Ybarra

Gold Star

In “Wild,” she is candid about her anger at her mother for dying, her infidelities during her marriage and her slide into heroin use. But the darkness is relieved by self-deprecating humor as she chronicles her clueless hiking expedition and the rebirth it helped to inspire.

Demerit

None.

Grade: A-

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Review GPA: 3.88 (A)