Sunday, January 11, 2015

From lost to found in Wild, Unlikely Pilgrimage

           Two years ago I looked at a plot summary of Rachel Joyce’s The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry and dismissed the book about a long walk as not likely to draw me in – or along. This November, I read it for book group.
Last week I sat in a movie theater a quarter of the way through Wild wondering how this story based on Cheryl Strayed's memoir, about a long hike was going to come together as a film.  I was  aware of this story from a blog post by Amy about the book -- one I had tucked away as a should-read.
By Unlikely's end, I was delighted and moved. By Wild’s,  I wiped away tears. While Harold and Cheryl put one step in front of the other, their stories seem to record only small happenings – yet somehow, in the meantime, everything shifts..
Both were less about climaxes than they were about cumulative revelations.
Similarities don’t end there.  A few more:
  • ·      Death (or dying) of another launches the long walks.
  • ·      Both Harold and Cheryl leave behind life partners.
  • ·      Neither is prepared.
  • ·      Shoes/boots become inadequate.
  • ·      Feet hurt.
  • ·      Feet blister. Feet bleed.
  • ·      Both have chance encounters with others.
  • ·      Both discover the kindness of strangers as well as the dark sides of others.
  • ·      Both have haunted pasts with personal trauma that slowly re-emerge as they walk.
  • ·      Both have stories with an element of addiction.
  • ·      Both stories are journeys as well as metaphors of life’s journey.

           Cheryl and Harold are also quite different or perhaps two sides of the same coin. Harold appears to be as common and bland as toast. Cheryl’s ever the wild child. Yet both end up on pilgrimages – journeys of self-discovery and self-recovery that result in spiritual reawakening.
What I love most about these journeys is that they reinforce my belief that change has its best chance to occur through movement  -- that trauma and toxic patterns are stored in our cells and need to be released physically before the mind can let them go.  

Nod to Amy at Sadie Belle reads, who first made me aware of Wild in her book review a few years ago. Also  an interesting link comparing book and movie:

Also this week: Finished Michael Connelly’s The Gods of Guilt.


  1. I haven't read Wild yet but like how you compared it with a book I did read and liked. I wanted to read Wild before, but now really want to read it.

    Also: What did you think of Connelly's The Gods of Guilt? :)

    1. Really like this pairing of books or book/movie. Gods of Guilt. I liked it a lot, but I prefer the Bosch series to the courtroom dramas.

  2. I liked Unlikely Pilgrimage, but haven't read Wild yet. I appreciate your observations -- very helpful!

  3. Didn't read Wild. I might go back and read it. Really deeply moved by the movie. Reese Witherspoon was wonderful.

  4. I like your statement about the best chance for positive change is through movement -- that's good and true I think. I read both of these books and liked the Harold Fry book a bit better but I like your comparison. I'm glad to hear the Wild movie is worthy to see, I'm going to check it out. Here's some of my thoughts on Fry book at

  5. Just read your review. Very nicely done. Yes I think the comparison to the Canterbury Tales works -- but then I think the long walks or pilgrimages -- take this shape. I did talk to someone who has both read Wild and seen the movie and felt the book was better -- gave a clearer picture of the backstory.

    1. Yeah I'm sure the Wild book goes into more than the film, longer etc. Some of the writing is truly heartfelt and lovely too, but the visuals in the movie are pretty great too.

  6. So glad you enjoyed the movie. I wasn't sure how the movie would be for someone who had not read the book, although my Ken read the book after seeing the movie and enjoyed both experiences. I'd like to read the Harold Fry book. I'd also like to go on a very long hike, but I guess I'll have to wait for retirement. Work gets in the way of everything!

  7. One of best friends in Maine just took a stay at home vacation and hiked each day sound Camden and Acadia National Park -- not long hikes -- just day or even afternoon ones and was very satisfied. She even inspired me to take a bunch of even shorter -- hour/2 hour walks in a nearby park in the woods along a river with my dog.
    Not a very, very long hike, but quite nice.