Book Versus Movie: Wild

Book vs. MovieWhenever there’s a movie made about a book, there’s always the question of “which was better?” Did Hollywood change too many things, or did the actors not look at all like what you pictured the characters to be? Books come alive in our heads, and then when somebody else makes a movie of their vision, it doesn’t always line up.

I just finished reading Wild by CherylStrayed, and I saw the movie last Saturday, so I saw the movie before I read the book. Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail is a memoir written by Cheryl Strayed. After the tragic death of her mother and the end of her marriage, Strayed spirals out of control. She decides to hikes more than a thousand miles of the Pacific Crest Trail in an attempt to regain her life and become the woman her mother raised.

The book tells a compelling story. While I found Strayed’s prose a little flowery and overdone at times, there was also some beautiful poeticism to some of her words. Beyond that, I enjoyed her story, especially the passages about the relationship between Strayed and her mother. I learned from the book that Cheryl chose the last named “Strayed” for herself after her divorce, and there’s several mentions of her being a literal “stray” after her mother’s death. Strayed loses her mother at the age of 22 and she writes very honestly about the impact of this loss and not getting the chance to appreciate her mother:

“[Her death] had cut me short at the very height of my youthful arrogance. It had forced me to instantly grow up and forgive her every motherly fault at the same time that it kept me forever a child.”

I know a lot of people really dislike this book. They think that Strayed is self-absorbed, or that the book isn’t accurate because she wrote it over 10 years after her hike and she romanticizes some of the darker details of her life. For me, even though it’s a memoir, it’s still a story and I think Strayed has the liberty to tell her story how she’d like, so these critiques honestly didn’t bother me. It wasn’t my favourite book, but I also didn’t dislike it. It fell somewhere in between.

Having read the book, I think the movie was well done. It stays true to most of the main stories in the book, which I appreciated. They didn’t add in anything to make it more dramatic for the big screen. I thought Reese Witherspoon did a great job of portraying Strayed and capturing her emotions. It was difficult to understand the vastness of her journey in the movie. Having read the book gives a lot more context to how far Strayed travelled and where she was on her trip.

Overall, if I’m pitting the book versus the movie, I’d choose the book. The extra context makes the story more compelling and the emotional side of the story is portrayed with words in a way that’s difficult on a screen. That said, I’d recommend seeing the movie as well (but maybe read the book first if you can).

Have you read Wild or seen the movie? What did you think of them? Which did you enjoy more?


4 thoughts on “Book Versus Movie: Wild

  1. Meredith says:

    I read Wild about two years ago and it was one of those ‘right place, right time’ moments. I was travelling abroad and hadn’t seen my Mom in 6 months or so. While reading Wild, I realized that I missed her quite a bit.

    I’ve read a lot of critiques of her book, but I thought it was fascinating. I agree that if someone is writing a memoir, they can write it as they please. They own their story, literally and figuratively. The reader can have their thoughts but should still feel appreciative that the story was shared.


    • Alex says:

      It’s great when you find those ‘right place, right time’ books that just speak to you. You said it perfectly – writers do own their story, and so they can take creative license. For me, it’s especially frustrating when I hear memoirs critiqued for “accuracy.” I don’t think anyone reads memoirs to get the exact facts of someone’s life – you read it to hear the author tell their own story. Thanks for commenting! 🙂


  2. A.M.B. says:

    It’s interesting to read your thoughts on the movie versus the book. I haven’t read Wild, but my husband did and enjoyed it (and neither of us have seen the movie). I read Tiny Beautiful Things, which wasn’t my favorite for some of the reasons people didn’t like Wild. I have a hard time believing Strayed and can’t suspend my skepticism while reading her words. That said, there were parts of her “Dear Sugar” letters I appreciated.


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