Finding it so late was common, when it came to lung cancer. Together we repeatedly walked the perimeter of our land in those first months as landowners, pushing our way through the wilderness on the two sides that didnt border the road, as if to walk it would seal it off from the rest of the world, make it ours. Trees that had once looked like any other to me became as recognizable as the faces of old friends in a crowd, their branches gesturing with sudden meaning, their leaves beckoning like identifiable hands.
There was nothing that could have been done, he told us. Radiation might reduce the size of the tumors that were growing along the entire length of her spine. A year later, he and my mom took the twelve-thousand-dollar settlement he received and with it bought forty acres of land in Aitkin County, an hour and a half west of Duluth, paying for it outright in cash. There was nothing to dif- ferentiate it from the trees and bushes and grasses and ponds and bogs that surrounded it in every direction for miles.
When my mother had done so, she climbed onto a padded table with white paper stretched over it. Shed waited me out until my head fell into her palms and I took a breath and came back to life. I thought about my older sister, Karen, and my younger brother, Leif. My prayer was different now: A year, a year, a year. She put her hand on mine and said, I used to listen to that song when I was young. When she met Eddie, she didnt think it would work because he was eight years younger than she, but they fell in love anyway. He was twenty-five when we met him and twenty-seven when he married our mother and promised to be our father; a carpenter who could make and fix anything.
Karen Cheryl Leif were alone with our mother againjust as wed been during the years that shed been single.
Dani Shapiro, New York Times Book Review I was on the edge of my seat. His back had healed enough that he could finally work again, and hed secured a job as a carpenter during the busy season that was too lucrative to pass up.
Eddie would continue driving up on weekends throughout the summer and then stay come fall.
Or rather, my mother, Leif, Karen, and I did, along with our two horses, our cats and our dogs, and a box of ten baby chicks my mom got for free at the feed store for buying twenty-five pounds of chicken feed.
The Washington Post A big, brave, break-your-heart-and-put-it-back-together-again kind of book. Mira Bartk, author of The Memory Palace A vivid, touching, and ultimately inspiring account of a life unraveling, and of the journey that put it back together. So many heal-myself memoirs are available that initially I hesitated about [Wild]. Wild [is] Strayeds account of her 1,100-mile solo hike along the Pacific Crest Trail, from the Mojave Desert to Washington State.
Strayed has the ineffable gift every writer longs for, of saying exactly what she means in lines that are both succinct and poetic. Pam Houston, author of Contents May Have Shifted Strayed reminds us of what it means to be fully alive, even in the face of catastrophe, physical and psychic hardship, and loss. Garth Stein, author of The Art of Racing in the Rain Strayeds language is so vivid, sharp, and compelling that you feel the heat of the desert, the frigid ice of the High Sierra and the breathtaking power of one remarkable woman finding her wayand herselfone brave step at a time. In Wild, she describes her journey from despair to transcendence with honesty, humor, and heart-cracking poignancy. Mary Pipher, author of Reviving Ophelia and Seeking Peace Cheryl Strayed is one of the most exciting writers Ive come across in a long time. She was alone, with Karen Cheryl Leif riding shotgun in her car. It is about forgiveness and grief and bravery and hope. Ann Hood, author of The Knitting Circle Cheryl Strayed can sure tell a story. He skinned her knees dragging her down a sidewalk in broad daylight by her hair. By twenty-eight she managed to leave him for the last time. There was the first, flip decision to do it, followed by the second, more serious decision to actually do it, and then the long third beginning, composed of weeks of shopping and packing and preparing to do it. And yet, here was my mother at the Mayo Clinic getting worn out if she had to be on her feet for more than three minutes. Eddie asked her when we came upon a row of them in a long carpeted hall. Just for a minute, said my mother, almost collapsing into one, her eyes meeting mine before Eddie wheeled her toward the elevator. shed ask again, and on and on and on, each time moving her hands farther apart. It was the ten thousand named things in the Tao Te Chings universe and then ten thousand more. She lived in five different states and two countries before she was fifteen. We made them into toysbeds for our dolls, ramps for our cars. THE TEN THOUSAND THINGS My solo three-month hike on the Pacific Crest Trail had many beginnings. Trays and boxes that had been cracked or clipped or misaligned in the machine. And finally, once Id actually gone and done it, walked all those miles for all those days, there was the realization that what Id thought was the beginning had not really been the beginning at all. My siblings and I had been made to swallow raw cloves of garlic when we had colds. The tests at the Mayo Clinic would prove that, refut- ing what the doctors in Duluth had said. She was going to leave my life at the same moment that I came into hers, I thought. We were her kids, her comrades, the end of her and the beginning. She was optimistic and serene, except a few times when she lost her temper and spanked us with a wooden spoon.