I borrowed a book from my lovely friend Em a while back when we were still doing book club and pretending to be pseudo-academic while actually drinking copious amounts of wine and discussing the latest series. When we eventually did turn to books (for all of five minutes), Em thrust Wild into my hands and told me I would really enjoy it. I gladly took it, gave the first page a brisk skim a while later, and put it aside for future reading.
It lay on my bookshelf for many months gathering a thin layer of dust, and then the other day, Tom and I watched the movie and I felt compelled to find the book and give it another try. I don’t know why it didn’t appeal to me the first time around – this time I couldn’t put it down and finished it in a day. Maybe books are like songs – sometimes you have to be ready for them to really appreciate what they’re trying to tell you. Cheryl Strayed’s pain was evident in every page in the beginning. As was her longing for redemption; for a lighter pack. She carried her Monster around with dignity, acceptance, and an awful lot of gumption. It seemed almost pre-ordained that hiking the PC Trail would be a journey she would make; her burden to bear. I loved the book’s rawness, and the gradual healing Cheryl went through with each leg of her adventure. I loved the quotes for every chapter, and the way, in the end, it was about letting go and accepting things as they are. We screw up. We learn. We screw up again. We undergo extreme pain. We endure astonishing loss. Remarkably we keep going. And we look for ways to come back to ourselves, to find the right path again. Ways to recover, ways to forgive, ways to understand. I like the fact that Cheryl eventually accepted her mistakes as part of what brought her back to herself, to the girl her mother raised. In letting go, and moving forward one painful step at a time, she found herself. The book is beautiful, honest, sad and inspiring. The movie is lovely as well – it makes you feel like it will all be OK – every fumbling mistake is but a mere step towards something greater.
The other book I’ve just finished is Paint it Black by Janet Fitch, the author of one of my all time favourite books, White Oleander. This was a difficult read, because it’s emotionally exhausting. Josie Tyrell loses the love of her life, an artist named Michael who commits suicide. The book focuses on Josie’s pain, her complicated relationship with Michael’s mother, and her discovery that Michael had secrets – the man she loved was only one part of a complex boy drowning in his own insecurities. Fitch is powerful. Her words are sharp, relentless, and mercilessly gut-wrenching. Josie’s agony is real, and the memories she has of Michael are so perfectly young, innocent and hopeful, with an undercurrent of darkness; a dark splash across a golden canvas warning of a crack in a dream-like façade. She couldn’t fix him, no matter how much she loved him, how hard she tried. Throughout the book there’s an element of fantasy, canvases of another life and the strong crescendo of the inevitable – the flurried frenzy of Brahms. Read it but gently, gingerly, with a glass of wine on hand.