Every morning I climb on the gym’s treadmill, insert my bright pink ear buds and hit play on my audio version of Cheryl Strayed’s book, Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail.
Armchair adventure is one of my favorite genres. Women “finding themselves” is a term that always makes me giggle but the concept usually holds my interest. Everyone I know whose read the book loves it. I want to like it.
I have to admit, I struggle to pay attention. This is my second try at the audio version of the book; I got about a chapter in the first time and was bored to tears, so I stopped. This time, I’m in Part Three of the five parts and I’m still struggling. Yes, yes, I know you probably loved it. I can’t help but wonder why my own response to the book was so different than most others I know.
So far, I just don’t find Cheryl interesting or likeable. There’s nothing wrong with the writing, per se. But for me, she reads whiney and immature. Although I know this first part of the book is about her struggle with nature and a set up for her epiphanies (or at least I hope it is), I have to want to get there. What I’ve read/heard so far of the audio version of the book doesn’t propel me, it repels me.
Partly it’s that the book is mostly exposition, so far. I am just not captivated by page after page of her struggling on her hike. Descriptions of the bark against her skin. The weight of her pack. Her muscle aches. Her hunger. Too much. Nothing to propel me through the book.
And then, what kind of woman takes on a trail like that with absolutely no reading or preparation?An immature one. Yes, yes, she might mature on her hike. That’s probably what it’s about. But I’m not interested enough to want to find out. Although I am slogging through even as I slog through my paces on the treadmill. In a standard book we can skim the boring parts. Not so with audio. It’s just so…boring.
How hard would it be for her to tell us about what she’s reading on the trail? She gives us the title and author: Faulkner. Let us into your head, Cheryl! What’s your response to the contrast of the pages with what you’re doing? Do you read more than a page before falling asleep exhausted? Do you dream about the characters? Do you dream at all?
Some other missing links glare, too.
It’s unclear at this stage why she and her husband split up, especially since she’s so far still attached to him, or the idea of him. No clear picture emerged of their relationship except for her cheating so we have no context for this longing to get a letter from him on the trail.
Heroin. Yeah, I’ve known a functional heroin addict or two, although I’ve never done the drug myself. But so far, no insights as to what heroin did for her at the time. That may be the point–that pre-hike she had no insights. But surely she had a response. Like, “it took away the pain” or something else. Almost halfway through the book, we don’t KNOW Cheryl and that makes it harder for me to want to stick with her. I’m not hearing insights.
As the Beatles sang, “Tell me why…”
Joe. Who IS Joe? Why did she stay involved with him? What were her thoughts as she shot up with him? Since we know so little about him, it’s a shock when he writes “I love you” in the note she got on the hike.
Here’s another thing. This is my very first audio book in a very long time and I find the narrator’s voice and inflections annoying. She sounds nothing like the young woman whose thoughts she’s speaking, or at least not like I imagine Strayed would sound like. The further I get into the audio the more I think that a big contributor to my problem with the book is that voice. I can’t hold the reader totally responsible–because I don’t find what she’s reading riveting–but she’s a big part of why I don’t like the book.
But Strayed, herself? She’s the bigger part. Because I just don’t like her.
The movie is getting four-star reviews, too. But I’m one of those who won’t see a movie just after reading the book. I need some distance because I know how it’ll end. If I even see the film, it’ll be on TV or streaming.
So, I’ll grind on with this audio experience until the end. And then, maybe start another audio book, just to see if perhaps the medium really does make the message dull for me.
What do you think? Do you enjoy audio books? If you liked Wild, why?