My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Some parts of this book I really, really liked. Some parts, I really, really didn't. But as the author of Dear Sugar, I have to admit that I expected something more.
The beginning portion about her mother's death was beautiful. It is exactly how a daughter feels when her mother dies--and my mother hasn't even died yet. I cried, and my heart hurt, and I was thrilled that I was already having such a strong reaction to this memoir. It felt like a promise of a heartfelt, engaging book.
Then, she leaves her husband. This part I simply didn't understand. However, as this is a memoir, I'm glad she didn't pull a James Frey move and vilify her husband, just to fit the narrative.
Moving on, she starts out her trek with a pack so enormous that she literally cannot even lift it--hence the name "Monster." I appreciate the eventual metaphor of this: she eventually learns to carry her burdens and even grows attached to them (in one part, she is nervous about being so far away from her pack). However, it does seem a little ridiculous for her to have been so naive, and she goes to such pains to spell out exactly what she bought to take with her, I expected more scenes where she becomes attached to those items or gets rid of some of them. I just expected the limitedness of her life to be shown with more purpose. All we really ever see are her water purification pump, her tent, her better-than-milk mix, a few articles of clothing, and those blasted boots.
As might be expected about a memoir that follows a woman hiking along along a mountain range, some of the narrative became monotonous. What actually bored me the most were the descriptions of the terrain. I wanted just enough to understand the trials and tribulations (or the beauty and respite), and then I wanted the narrative to move along. This happened sometimes, but not always. Not even most times.
Apart from the beginning portion about her mother, my favorite parts of this book were the parts that included other people. Strayed distills characters to their essences, and she is blunt about her feelings about them. This is a true talent, and one that lends itself well to the memoir genre.
And finally, I must end with some quotes that I absolutely, positively related to:
"I only wanted it to be eleven o'clock so he'd leave with me and I could stop wondering whether I was a babe or a gargoyle and whether he was looking at me or he thought I was looking at him." This could have come straight out of a young adult novel! And yet even in my twenties, I oftentimes feel this way....
"There were pleasant mornings . . . ten-mile stretches that I'd glide right over while barely feeling a thing. . . . But there would always come a point . . . when I didn't love it anymore, when it was monotonous and hard and my mind shifted into a primal gear that was void of anything but forward motion. . . ." This one I spliced to fit my activity: marathon training. Before this quote she says that the PCT had gotten easier but that didn't mean it was easy. This is precisely how it feels to run.
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