Best books to read in college: ‘Wild’ by Cheryl Strayed

By on March 30, 2014

By Sammie Hill–

Cheryl Strayed is a badass.

At only 26, she had endured hardships that broke her to the core. She had suffered loss, tasted pain and futilely grasped for an escape from her grief. She then proceeded to undertake a solo 1,100-mile hike through the Pacific Crest Trail, and recount it in her inspirational, humorous and moving memoir, Wild.

Four years before her hike, Strayed lost her mother suddenly and mercilessly to cancer. This event incited a subsequent series of losses and hardships for Strayed as she struggled with grief, anger, regret and, ultimately, a heart ravaged and ripped apart. Attempts to silence her pain crippled her relationship with her husband, leading to divorce and nearly to her self-destruction.

However, to save herself from such a fate, she decided to hike from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to Washington State—alone.

Strayed sought to climb out of the grief that had devoured her following her mother’s death—grief that she expresses with devastating and beautiful writing.

For example, Strayed writes of her mother’s death, “I didn’t get to grow up and pull away from her and bitch about her with my friends and confront her about the things I’d wished she’d done differently and then get older and understand that she had done the best she could and realize that what she had done was pretty damn good and take her fully back into my arms again. Her death had obliterated that. It had obliterated me. It had cut me short at the very height of my youthful arrogance. It had forced me to instantly grow up and forgive her every motherly fault at the same time that it kept me forever a child, my life both ended and begun in that premature place where we’d left off. She was my mother, but I was motherless. I was trapped by her, but utterly alone.”

Despite the crushing weight of all she carried with her, Strayed kept walking for over 1,000 miles of the PCT. She pushed on, step after step, because she had to. That was her only option, she realized. In order to get to where she was meant to be, she had to keep going.

Throughout this journey, Strayed finally finds what she was searching for—not an escape from her pain, but the ability to heal from it.

As college students, some of us are no stranger to suffering, while others have yet to explore its depths. Regardless, we can all learn from Strayed’s journey and the insight she offers throughout Wild.

Strayed bravely reveals the darkest details of her past and confronts life’s cruelties with honesty, humor, wit and strength. She opens her life up to us so that we may recognize in her our own grief, our own pain, our own regrets and our own hope for redemption.

As Strayed walks toward acceptance, forgiveness and the ability to heal, we feel as though we are right beside her, confronting our own darkest moments and learning to carry on.

Wild show us that no matter what we encounter on our path through life, we must keep walking. No matter how heavy the burdens we carry become, we must keep going. No matter how crushing our grief, maddening our regret, or deep our wounds, we continue on, step after step, heading towards the place we are meant to be.


Photo courtesy of 

About Sammie Hill

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *