Given my ever-budding love for the outdoors, this book is like a rite of passage for outdoorsy women. Quick rundown: it’s a memoir by a woman who hiked the Pacific Crest Trail four years after the death of her mother. She’d gone completely off the deep end, did drugs, cheated on her husband excessively, and got a divorce. This hike helped her come to terms with all of that. Here are the bad and good things about it:
- I struggled a lot with her life choices. She hurt people, and she hurt them bad. But that’s okay, because she was grieving! I’m sorry, but any kind of tragedy in your life doesn’t make it okay to be a self-centered, impulsive jerk. Someone has to pick up after you – I know this because I’ve seen it in my own life and I’ve seen it in other people’s lives. Death isn’t unique to most people, and everyone responds differently. This meme says it best:
- I…I don’t feel like she really learned anything. I guess the lessons I wanted her to learn were different from the lessons she learned. This Goodreads review laid out all the flaws of the book in a hilarious way.
- It was engaging. Maybe it’s my ability to listen to books at 2x on my phone, but I was absorbed from beginning to end. It was just plain interesting – I wanted to see what happened next and how she felt and how she’d respond. I think her writing corresponds to the kind of writing I do, and as a result I was just plain fascinated.
- My favorite part was the part where she realized that hiking the PCT was nothing like she expected. This was more toward the middle of the book than at the end. She had expected a beautiful, cathartic amalgam in which she mulled over her mother’s death, her life choices, all with a gorgeous backdrop. She’d laugh, she’d cry, she’d watch sunsets in a contemplative manner, and she’d ultimately become one with the universe. Instead, she was forced to think only about her present situation: her aching feet, her obscenely heavy backpack (that she later nicknamed “monster”), her survival, whether or not she had enough water and food, etc. And that’s EXACTLY what I’ve experienced while backpacking long distances and hiking difficult mountains. People often talk about how good the outdoors are for mental health. Is it because it forces you to stop thinking about your problems and focus on, y’know, NOT DYING? Because that’s been my experience.
If you don’t read this book, you won’t miss much. I still enjoyed it, despite its flaws. It’s readable for sure, makes you want to embark on your own soul-searching journey, but please don’t be as thoughtless as her.