The author, Sue Monk Kidd, adds fictional dimensions to the history of the Grimkes. Through these fictional accounts, we learn a lot about actual history. We become acquainted with the relationships between children slaves & plantation owners’ children, religious dynamics of the era, family relationships, the lives of slaves and the abolitionist movement as the story progresses. The plot, while slow to start, really picks up momentum about halfway through.
It is 1995. Cheryl Strayed is 26 years old, suffering from a deep grief for her mother’s death, dealing with poor life decisions, experiencing a growing disconnection from her family and is newly divorced. These events bring her to such a low point in her life that she begins this trek to walk 1,100 miles that will take her three months to complete. The trail is rugged, remote and unforgiving. She does not see another person for her first eight days on the trail. She has never been so alone. Dealing with nature’s elements and carrying the weight of everything she needs on her back take a physical and emotional toll. And yet she presses on through extreme weather conditions, blisters, detours, inexperience, self-doubt, exhaustion and fear. It’s as if she needed to purge everything from her past and punish herself while doing it so she could move ahead with her life.
This memoir is beautifully written with honesty, sadness and a little bit of humor. By the end I felt that I travelled the journey alongside the author. Despite the harsh conditions, she also experiences nature’s beauty on the trail, friendships with other hikers, and an inner strength. These qualities kept me reading and I wanted her to succeed. In the end, I think she found what she was looking for.