Two Books, One Theme, A Hundred Thoughts and What-Ifs

This week, I’ve read two books, a memoir about hiking and a novel about happenstance. Wild by Cheryl Strayed is one of those books that leaves you feeling inspired and in awe of the human condition. I love hiking, surrounded by trees and water, the peace of silence, and the feeling that your body and mind are truly connected. At the end of the day, I also very much like going home, eating a hot meal, using the facilities, and sleeping in my warm bed in my warm house. Camping can be fun for a couple of days, but I’m not sure I would love doing what Strayed did for that long.

Wild is a memoir Strayed wrote about her travels on the Pacific Crest Trail. Though she set out alone, she met people on the way, learned a lot about herself and her strength, and walked a whole lot. In theory, it sounds romantic. When it comes down to it, if I needed to or felt inspired to, my body could handle the physical requirements of such a journey, but emotionally, I’m not certain I would be up for it. To be fair, Strayed went through a lot of emotional obstacles that led her towards the trip, but I am certain there are people who hike for long periods of time because they like to. I am not one of those people, but I do like reading about them.

Unlike the book I mentioned that I stopped reading, I felt connected to the protagonist and her story. It was as much about her personal life and emotions as it was her hiking adventures and there was a nice balance. In memoirs, there’s never the true anxiety of wondering what will happen next because you know the protagonist is well enough in the end to have written the story (in most cases). Yes, there’s still the anticipation of things that you don’t know, but it’s not quite the same as in novels. However, memoirs portray a range of different perspectives and life experiences that can only be shared through media. At times, I felt as though I was on the trail, my legs burning, feet torn up, lugging a huge backpack that contained all of my life’s possessions. When Strayed expressed relief, I felt relieved. When she was scared, I was trembling with her. That is a mark of an excellent memoir, an author who shows not just what happened, but how he/she felt in those moments.

I was sad when the book came to an end and I also had a hankering to go hiking. No worries because Reese Witherspoon hopped onto this book before it even came out and has already filmed the movie version.

When I started The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty, I was excited because I’ve had it on hold from the library since August. I was immediately pulled into the story and anxious about first, what the secret was, then how all of the stories and characters would interact. I cannot give this away, but I will say that the novel is satisfying in that it feels frustrating as hell. I liked the book in the way that I didn’t necessarily love what happened, but it left an impact.

I believe I mentioned a book I once threw across the room because I hated how it ended. This was a different circumstance and not only because I was not about to throw my electronic reader. In that book, it ended without an actual ending, but a copout. In The Husband’s Secret there are great tie-ins and an interesting plot throughout and I loved learning how they all connected. It was very hard to put this book down and I can see why I had to wait so long for it. I finished the book very quickly and felt satisfied with the ending, which again, is not easy for me!

One theme in the book that stands out to me is how the author lingers over the what-ifs in the world. She defines these possibilities, which leaves a larger impact on the way things actually play out. Though it’s important to live in the present in real life, it can sometimes be fun to imagine how things may have played out if you made a different choice, whether it’s big events or small occurrences. In real life, you’ll never know, but Moriarty uses this technique in an intriguing way which only adds to the story.

When reading, I often reflected after wondering what I would do in some of these awful situations the characters have to endure and there is no easy answer. I suppose that what the story and Moriarty wants to convey is that when faced with something, you just do it, which is prevalent in Strayed’s story as well. There’s no anticipating how you might react to something, just as there is no knowing what might happen next. Sometimes, you just have to trust yourself and your instincts to go with the flow. That’s a scary concept.

Though these books were very different, in themes and styles, they both show how important reading is. It makes you think, learn, and view things in a different light.

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