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.
We learn that Elspeth has a daughter & through her daughter’s letters, we learn more about Elspeth’s life. We find out that there is one lost letter that remains to help Margaret, Elspeth’s daughter, find out the truth about what happened to her family & her mother.
David goes off to France to drive ambulances during the war, to avoid the career his father demands. David’s storyline in France helps give a good framework for the letters & also helps us see what an impact war had on every day individuals like this. By telling the story through letters, you feel like you’re peeking into real peoples’ lives. The audio book version is delightful. It gives you a real feel for the characters. The author, Jessica Brockmole, describes historical aspects in delicious detail, helping transport the reader to that time.
If you liked The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Society, you might want to give this read a try.