Cover Me: The cover is pretty classic and makes even more sense when you read the forward. The boot is a symbol for many things throughout the book. Well, at least I looked at it that way. It seems like the perfect cover for her story.
The new version is based on the movie and splashes Reese Witherspoon on it looking less glamorous than she usually is. I guess this is a selling point to highlight the fact you can watch the movie too. I deliberately bought the cover with the boot like I was proving something to myself about wanting to read it for the story it was and not the movie it became.
The Concept: This is Cheryl Strayed’s true story about hiking across the Pacific Trail to heal from her mother’s death. Yep, that’s it. Nothing really more. This is one of those coming of age stories, but you’re in your 20’s.
The Peeps: Cheryl introduces us to many characters in the book and they all have their own lives. Hers is the dominant force and I loved how she exposed herself. She dropped big details in short sentences and moved on through complex relationships in few pages. I think this was an amazing parallel to the story she told about herself. My favorites were the little acquaintance stories that just happened. They weren’t really bigger than what they were, unless you learned more from it because it means something to you. Such a great thing to read when you’re a writer.
I felt for her relationship with her ex-husband Paul. Watching them fall apart was harder than the other familial relationships she left by the side of the road. Cheryl’s love for him while betraying their marriage told how deep the damage went in her heart.
The relationship with her mother was the dominating force and shaped her person when she started on the trail. I had a hard time getting through the first chapters because it was gut wrenching. Still healing from losing people in my life, I had a hard time experiencing someone else’s broken spirit. And yet, I understood it. So much so, I encouraged Hubs to read the book when I was done.
The Ending (spoiler alert!): She finished the trail. But you knew that, didn’t you? I think the thing I expected the most was Cheryl would meet someone on the trail who would mean something enough it would shape her future life. You know, like a man she would fall in love with and marry. (I think I’ve read too much fiction.) Maybe I even felt a little unfulfilled when she reached the end and I didn’t know more about how good she would be. I had to remind myself, it wasn’t my story, it was hers.
The thing I most appreciate about this book was Cheryl’s honesty. Some scenes were so blunt, so raw, so unafraid to say it like she wanted. I commend her. It’s one of those examples where you tell yourself as a writer to be brave and scare yourself with the story you are willing to tell. Hats off to you Cheryl Strand.
What I Cooked Up: This was a hard treat to make. I knew I wanted something to honor her “monster.” It’s the large backpack she hauled through all those miles. It started over-packed and weighed her down to where she was crippled by it. As she went through the trail, she shed unnecessary pack weight, hardened to the process, and learned a simpler way.
It seemed the perfect thing to highlight with a cake that represents way too much. I’ve nicknamed this “Monster Cake.” It’s all my favorite things put into one dessert. Not only does it have cake, it has layers of cheesecake and chocolate chip cookie, and is frosted in peanut butter buttercream. It’s so much, it might make you puke. Just like Cheryl’s monster pack.