I’m a big fan of the Sugar columns at TheRumpus.net, spending free time going through the archives and falling into the lull of Strayed’s words and her heartwrenching advice. When I heard about this memoir I knew I needed to have it — but I’d also promised myself that, since I had more time, I wouldn’t give in to spending money. I’d get it through the library.
The first night I got it (after weeks of waiting) I devoured about 20% (I read it on my Kindle). And then it got to the trail, really got to it, and her hours of solitude felt heavy on me and I set it down. I picked it up, got through it little pieces at a time, and thought about how difficult it is to effectively write something with only one person in the scene and keep it engaging. And then, just in time, new people joined her and the scene lightened and I found myself interested again.
That being said, as I read it, I wondered if when I got to the end I would feel disappointed. I’d expected something that would knock me out, over and over, like the Sugar columns, and instead what I got was solid, steady, a woman who was smart and interesting and stubborn but not necessarily a book that I would never let leave my fingertips. I started appreciating her craft — the Strayed/Starved necklace, the black feather, how her feet disintegrated while the rest of her body coped — and when I put down the book I knew that I had enjoyed it but wasn’t quite sure what I would say. I wasn’t sure if it was a new favorite, something I would throw at other people and say here, read this, please, you must.
But when I woke up this morning it was still rattling around inside me, and I realized that while on the surface it didn’t make me weep or make me force Mark to listen to page-long excerpts, it had buried itself deeper and made itself a home. I’m lucky enough to have never been knocked as hard as Strayed, but I could feel something, like I’d been taught a lesson I didn’t know I was learning, something about forgiveness and redemption and the way we are capable of much more than we believe. Read it when you need a book that feels like a deep breath, like a sore body after a long day, something like gratitude and triumph.