Cheryl came into the story with a ton of emotional baggage that made me feel for her at some points, and want to shake her back to reality at others. The death of her mom was devastating beyond measure and missing the final moments would have sent me over the edge as well. Doing stupid things involving adultery, general sleeping around, drug use, and having an abortion? I wasn't as forgivable with those choices, but to each his (or her) own.
As for the trail, I enjoyed that part of the book immensely, and welcomed almost everyone that she came in contact with along the route. The two guys towards the end creeped me out though - I was expecting something terrible to happen. I only wish there had been some photographs at the end of the book so I could have a visual to match where she was during the hike and get a sense of these fantastic people or the amazing "resorts" that she found along the way.
The generosity of others is noted towards the end, but it was a recurrent thought that I had as I read the book - she was so fortunate that she met the folks she did and made SOME of the decisions she did. Someone was looking out for her, that's for sure!
Definitely a worthwhile read, and one that will spur many discussions. I wouldn't see this book as one for a hiking enthusiast who is looking to learn more about the trail itself, as it isn't a guide book by any means. Instead, it would rather be appreciated by those seeking books that pertain to moving on with life or finding themselves (more along the Eat, Pray, Love path).
To say that Cheryl Strayed is a novice backpacker is quite the understatement. I was amazed that she even went through with her hike of 1100 miles, or even made it 5 at the beginning of the story. She was in no way prepared for a hike of that magnitude, and to do it alone??? That said, I am impressed with her perseverance beyond measure, however reckless it might have been. The folks at REI should be impressed as well - they got some major props in this book!