Audio book: Wild

wildby Cheryl Strayed
Read by Bernadette Dunne
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Content: Drug use, sex, drinking, yeah: it’s all in here. Definitely not for the faint of heart.

I was wandering around, looking for a new audio book, and stumbled on this one. I figured so many people have raved about it that it couldn’t be terrible. So, I picked it up.

If you’ve been under a rock, it’s Cheryl’s personal story of her redemption, of sorts, after her mother died and her marriage fell apart (due to her infidelities and drug addiction). She decides that what she needs to do is hike the Pacific Crest Trail from California to Washington (actually, Oregon came later, after she discovered that the Sierras were snowed in) alone. She has no experience, she has no idea what’s in store for her. And yet, you have to admire her for going through with it, even when — especially when — the going gets hard.

But I couldn’t get past the “poor me” vibe that I felt was under the whole book. Maybe it’s because Cheryl didn’t narrate her own book and I never really got past that. Or maybe I’m just too judgmental (which I am, unfortunately). But while I really enjoyed the moments when Cheryl was battling against the trail, and mostly succeeding, I didn’t have much patience for Cheryl herself. (Now that I write this, it sounds really judgmental. Maybe it’s just wrong time wrong book?) I was talking to someone who had a similar experience with Eat, Pray, Love (which I really liked). Perhaps we’re more apt to judge women who travel because their lives are broken than those (men?) who just up and leave (I’m looking at you, Bill Bryson) to go experience the world.

I don’t know. I just know that I didn’t connect with this one as much as I hoped it would.

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Audiobook: The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry

by Rachel Joyce
Read by: Jim Broadbent
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Content: There are a couple of characters with foul mouths and swear quite a bit (including multiple f-bombs), but that’s it. It’s also a book about aging, life, death, and marriage, so I’m not sure how interested younger people would be in it. It’s in the adult fiction section of the bookstore.

I don’t really know what inspired me to pick this one up; I suppose it’s because I’ve heard a lot about it over the months it’s been out, but I guess I needed a journey story, because this one hit home,

Harold Fry is 65 years old and has just retired from 45 years as a salesman at a local brewery. He doesn’t have much to do, and he and his wife, Maureen, haven’t had much of a marriage in 20 years. So, mostly he just sits around. So, when he gets a letter from Queenie Hennessy, a colleague he hasn’t seen in 20 years, that she’s dying of cancer, he sets out to mail a letter back to her. And then just keeps walking.

A girl in a garage inspires Harold: perhaps if he walks the 600 miles from his home in Kingsbrige to were Queenie is in Berwick-Upon-Tweed, perhaps she will live.

What Harold didn’t count on was how much his walk would change his life.

I completely empathized with all the characters in the book. Sometimes, Harold struck home, with his need to do something to feel productive. Sometimes, it was Maureen, with her frustrations about the stagnation of their marriage — though there’s more to that story, which is slowly revealed over the course of the book. And it was a testament to the kindness of strangers. Harold started out spending money and staying at hotels, but over the course of the 87 days he walked, he increasingly became more dependent on other people. And they didn’t disappoint; sure, there are unkind people, but Joyce seems to be affirming that most people in this world are decent.

It did get a bit meandering in the middle, but I was so enthralled with Broadbent’s narration, I didn’t mind. He was spot-on with all the characters, from the Scottish nuns in the hospice to Maureen’s irritation, to the 70-something next door neighbor, Rex, who turns out to be a gem.

I loved it.