The Emperor’s New Hiking Boots

Wild by Cheryl Strayed

Guys, my book club recently talked about the book for nearly 2 hours nonstop. (Usually—let’s just confess it—usually we talk about the book for about 20 minutes and then we’re on to other topics.)

And the kicker was: some of us (most of us) hadn’t finished the book, and all of us despised it.

Yes, I’m talking about Cheryl Strayed’s Wild. The darling of so many book reviewers, who apparently failed to see that this author went nowhere on her Pacific Coast Trail hike or on her “journey of self-discovery.” (There was no self-discovery.)

As one of my astute friends said: The author had all the elements of a great story, but she managed to make it boring. I decided I just didn’t like the narrator, who did that
self-indulgent thing I detest. Another friend pulled up a negative review from the Kugelmass Episodes, which contained the succinct phrase “there’s nothing dramatic about self-inflicted crisis,” which we returned to repeatedly. And we all agreed that if self-discovery was what she was after, she needed to get out of the shallows.

The other human-nature-y thing we talked about was the fact that we wouldn’t’ve been so honked off if this book hadn’t gotten so much press and so many rave reviews.

But the fact that it did, when we found it mediocre-at-best, basically served to enrage us. (Voices were raised! Despite the fact that we are mild Midwesterners!)

So, here’s my true confession: I knew I’d despise this book, even before I picked it up. It reeked to me of Eat, Pray, Love, of which I read exactly one page before plunking it down in disgust. I know myself as a reader, and man was I ever right about this one.

And I gotta tell you, it sure feels better when others—people like me—have the same response.

One of my friends said she kept thinking, Everyone likes this book, so it must just be me. No, sister, it’s lots of us.

(And now I have that icky feeling, because I’ve said negative things. Sorry, universe — I’ve put some toxicity out there.)


8 thoughts on “The Emperor’s New Hiking Boots

  1. I thought it was in the same vein as Eat, Pray, Love (which I disliked) but a little better. I audiobooked it, and it was a little wearing at times. A stretch I found tiresome was the weekend she spent with that guy. She went on in excruciating detail. It felt like a month.

  2. Tracy

    Thanks for the Eat Pray Love reference – I've heard such good things about this book, but I really hated Eat Pray Love, so I suspect I would have a similar reaction to this book.

  3. Thank YOU for saying this out loud–every time I saw this book pop up on a new "Best of…" list last year, it annoyed me, even though I hadn't read it!

    Although, conversely, yours is the first review that has made me want to read it, just to see if it is truly that bad!

  4. Citizen — If you must torture yourself in that way, please just promise me you'll check out the library's copy. I'd feel terrible if I helped contribute to her coffers.

  5. I figured that was the case (said the woman who bought the darn thing due to a book club deadline; this made things only worse when I despised it as expected [more than expected]).

    –Surly Reader

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