Maybe it’s because I read the book after experiencing a loss like the one Cheryl Strayed went through herself, but the trailer for the movie adaptation of her 2012 memoir, Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, gave me goosebumps. The book, about the then-twentysomething Strayed’s solo hike of said trail in the wake of her mother’s death and the dissolution of her marriage, was a New York Times best-seller and an Oprah’s Book Club selection. And with good reason: It’s one of the most honest accounts of grief I can think of, a totally un-sugarcoated depiction of that time in Strayed’s life when “God was a ruthless bitch.”
The trailer has an au natural Reese Witherspoon fording rivers, screaming from a mountaintop, and, in the absence of human contact, attempting to befriend a fox. While this is a tale of the triumph of the human spirit, it’s far from saccharine: The bumpy path to emotional fulfillment includes random sex, heroin abuse, and the sheer brutality of the Sierra Nevada. And however successfully this walk in the woods helps to mend Strayed’s broken spirit, it cannot (spoiler alert) bring anyone back from the dead.
The line-up for the film is promising: It was directed by Jean-Marc Vallée (Dallas Buyers Club), adapted for the screen by Nick Hornby (High Fidelity), and features Laura Dern as Strayed’s mother. With those people involved, I’m hopeful that Strayed’s story will sustain its emotional power on the big screen. Fans of the book who can’t wait for the film’s Dec. 5 release should read Strayed’s moving essay on love and loss in the Sun and her foul-mouthed, tough-love advice column at the Rumpus, “Dear Sugar.”