12 Sep Cheryl Strayed & Elizabeth Gilbert…Whoa-as-me but Winning Writers
Tonight we talk “Wild” by Cheryl Strayed.
Yes, it’s LOL’s first meeting of our second season, chez moi! I’m so looking forward to seeing most of the Ladies on Literature and to discussing this well written memoir. Overall I enjoyed it. But like a number of the gals I’ve chatted with, we do have a handful of “complaints” about this book. Last day I mentioned all that was great about it, today I get a bit more critical.
Without spoiling anything, here’s a few thoughts:
1) A little self-indulgent. I may be in the minority here, but I found that other famous, made-into-a-movie-memoir, Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love painfully whoa-as-me as well. Not that I didn’t enjoy it…I did. Gilbert, like Strayed, is a fantastic writer, and very funny. Nonetheless, I personally found her forays into depression, curled up in the fetal position on her expensively tiled bathroom floor bemoaning her successful career, beautiful new house, and nice husband, a bit barf-inducing. As the book progressed I did forgive her. It’s a well told story and hey, maybe she married the wrong guy the first time around. She made me laugh out loud and there’s much to be said for that–especially coming from a near suicidal woman. Still…I didn’t find myself overcome with empathy and the same can be said of Strayed and her story.
It’s not an uncommon complaint according to many reviews I’ve read. No one would dispute the crushing grief of losing her mother at such a young age, but from the start Strayed seems bent on self-destruction and her careless sexual encounters, experiments with heroine, and reckless (even cruel) treatment of her husband ring rather unforgivably cold…but at least she is honest about it all. You have to give her that. Blunt and honest.
2) A little misleading. The story is well-told and tension filled, which keeps the reader turning pages but I felt a little like I was tricked into the turning. There is regular foreshadowing of impending doom and even the inside cover hints of exciting adventures to come when Strayed “faces down rattlesnakes and black bears” but in fact all she does is sidestep a rattler or two innocently sunning on the trail, while she watches a couple of bears amble down the path in front of her. Say what? No snake bites, no battles with bears? Nope. Just chance meetings that amount to nothing. Even the symbolic fox she faces seems friendly in a passe way. Same with the men she comes across and fears, being all alone out there. I kept waiting–the entire book–for that one great story, that one memorable moment when something crazy would happen, that amazing character she would meet–something that would stand out, but I consistently felt like I was set up for drama, only to be let down with the mundane.
3) A little let down. Even at the end, I was aware that Strayed wasn’t done with herself. She’d come a long way, but she still had a ways to go. No huge epiphanies, though in all fairness, some small, meaningful ones that amount to a changed life in the end.
So, would I recommend the book? Yes. Despite the above, it’s a moving story, especially at the very end, when she comments from the perspective of a forty-something year old woman of wisdom who has no idea what will evolve in her later years, how life will bless her in so many ways. And you know, imaybe that’s just realistic. Life is like that.
But don’t take it all from me. Tune in tomorrow for some comments from the LOL!