By Cheryl Strayed
Alfred A. Knopf, $25.95, 315 pages

If the writer’s job is to tell the truth, as Hemingway once said, then Cheryl Strayed has done her job spectacularly. In Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, Strayed recounts the story of her descent into despair after her mother dies at the young age of 45. She not only reveals the raw and sometimes ugly truth of her journey that includes a broken marriage and heroin use, but she revels in it.

When Strayed hit bottom, she came up with a plan to hike the Pacific Crest Trail from one end to the other, over 2,000 miles of wilderness stretching south to north over nine mountain ranges and three states. Never mind that she’d never hiked before, let alone carried a backpack. There were no pre-trip conditioning day hikes, nor much prep of any kind. She simply hit the trail wearing a pack that made standing upright a feat in itself.  Along the way, she encountered bears, snakes, feet covered with blisters and men who might do her harm.  She left a little bit of her grief at each mile post and when she finally arrived at the end, she was a woman who had changed in ways that would forever inflect the path of her life. In the end, what is exposed is not her flawed character or mistakes, but the truth of the beauty within her soul.

Reviewed by Diane Prokop