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Wild: Chapters 7-8

Welcome to the comments and discussion of the Young Adult Cancer Book Club!  We are reading Wild, by Cheryl Strayed.  Read our participants’ reactions and follow along with us each week as we read through the book!  (Caution! Spoilers below!)

Week 4: Chapters 7-8, pages 102-135

By Megan F.

In chapters 7 & 8 we see Cheryl grapple with some change – Albert helps her lighten her pack and she deviates from her original plan to hike through the snowiest part of the High Sierras. These chapters are an obvious turning point in Cheryl’s journey on the trail, as she begins to accept help from others, but eventually they all go their separate ways. Albert helps lighten her pack and Greg trains her on how to use the snow ax. However, it was very interesting that Cheryl really felt that she had to do this journey alone and did not continue on with Doug and Tom.

I was surprised that Cheryl actually chose to find a way to continue on the trial after bypassing the High Sierras and that she didn’t choose to stop then. The stranger at the casino made a comment to her about her bird feather that really stood out to me: “‘It’s the place where things are born, where they begin. Think about how a black hole absorbs energy and then releases it as something new and alive.'” It’s ironic that this stranger made this comment to Cheryl at such a turning point in her journey. I am astounded by Cheryl’s inner turmoil on whether to continue on the trail or not, but ultimately deciding to get back on.

By Ashley V.

In Chapter 7, Cheryl makes it to the general store and campground. At the campground, trail angel Ed greets Cheryl and old trail acquaintances Greg and Albert are waiting for her. Cheryl learns that none of them bet on her arriving before Doug and Tom, two hikers who were just behind her on the trail, but she defied everyone’s expectations. While at the campground, Albert helps Cheryl lighten her load (literally), helping her decide how to whittle down what’s in her pack to the bare essentials. Cheryl helps the newly arrived and suffering Tom by sharing her 2nd Skin patches to protect his feet rubbed raw from hiking. Doug gifts Cheryl a “lucky” feather, and Greg gifts her a lesson on how to use an ice pick. The hot topic of conversation is the record-breaking snow on the High Sierra, and whether to press on.

In Chapter 8, Doug and Tom decide to push on despite the snow. They invite Cheryl to join them, but she declines, saying she can’t “because the point of my trip is that I’m out here to do it alone.” She decides to leave Doug and Tom and bypass, altering her plan to now involve hiking all of Oregon instead.

The part of Cheryl’s journey in these two chapters that most resonated with me was her mistaken assumption that it’s important to do things alone. When I was first diagnosed with cancer, I was strongly opposed to the idea of joining any support groups or reaching out to anyone going through what I was going through. I thought I could tough it out alone. When I finally broke down and changed my mind, I found it to be a relief to connect with others who shared my experience and could give me advice. Eight years later, my closest friends are a group of five other women I met through a cancer support community, and we have matching tattoos to mark our bond. This reliance on community has become central to my identity.

I think Cheryl’s desire to “do it alone” is misguided. She wouldn’t have made it this far without the guidance of knowledgeable REI employees, her friend Lisa willing to ship her boxes, those willing to give her a ride, Ed the “trail angel” making her food, Albert helping her lighten her pack, or Greg showing her how to use her tools. Likewise, Tom would be suffering if Cheryl hadn’t forged community with him and shared her 2nd Skin. Doing it together, not alone, is what makes you stronger.

We’ll talk about a few chapters each week until the book is done. Join in the comments every week!  Also, there will probably be spoilers, so read along with us!

Once we finish the book, we’ll have an online book club discussion on Zoom to talk about general feelings from the book and anything else you’d like to discuss on Monday, May 23rd.

Excited about the next book club?  Have any suggestions for future reads?  Let us know by emailing!