Reviews and updates from Amber Foxx, author of the Mae Martin Psychic Mystery Series
Cheryl Strayed is a sentence. It’s her name, but she chose it, saying “Cheryl strayed.” She identified with her various transgressions or wanderings-off so deeply that when she got divorced she picked this past tense verb for a last name. The past tense is important. Even when she writes about the present, she does it with an obsessive, circular relationship with her past. She wrote this book about her past many years after living this crazy hike. She wrote her past into the story of the hike, shadowing the adventure with everything she left behind.
I was impressed by her skill as a writer and by her endurance on the trail, but her obsessive ruminations grew tiresome. The book is at its best when she encounters other hikers or bears and snakes, anything other than the clutter of her own mind. Although the subtitle is about going from lost to found, the only way in which she seemed healed by the journey was in putting distance between herself and a drug habit. She doesn’t come across as especially insightful by the end—stronger but still self-absorbed. Early in the book, as she set out, poorly prepared, to hike the Pacific Crest Trail, I thought that she was throwing herself on the mercy of strangers to be rescued whether she knew it or not, and it became clear to me as a reader that being a young, nicely-built blonde female did much to get her through. It seems that it should have been a risk, but it turned out to be a benefit. People offered her rides, gave her advice, shelter, places to bathe and do laundry—kindnesses they wouldn’t necessarily to extend to men or minorities.
Narcissists can be charming, and people seem to have enjoyed her company. I enjoyed many sections of the book, but found others tedious, and was by the end glad to part ways with her.