Book vs. Movie: Wild

Book vs. Movie: Wild

Time for another Book vs. Movie! This time it’s Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, a memoir by Cheryl Strayed. It was the pick for our book club this month, and last night we all went out to see the movie adaptation in theater together. It’s non-fiction, but doesn’t read like it, thankfully. It tells the story of 20-something Cheryl, whose mother’s death from cancer sends her life into a tailspin. To pull herself out of it, she impulsively decides to hike the Pacific Crest Trail. She picks out a section over 1,000 miles long and sets out. Alone. With no prior long-distance backpacking/hiking experience. As you might expect, that doesn’t go as well as it did in her head. The book has become a national bestseller and was part of Oprah’s book club. The movie just released this month, and stars Reese Witherspoon as Cheryl.

So! That’s the summary. Here’s the side-by-side comparison of the different formats:




  • Really well-written. Felt more like a novel than non-fiction, which I always appreciate.
  • A good mix of ‘present-day’ and back-story in the telling, with good transitions between.
  • I felt like she really captured the different personalities she meets on the trail well.
  • Made me want to go hiking out West.
  • Did a good job of translating all of Cheryl’s jumbled internal thoughts and song snippets onto the screen.
  • Reese Witherspoon did a great job as Cheryl. I was a bit skeptical, as Cheryl was around 25 when she did the hike, but it worked.
  • Laura Dern as Cheryl’s mother was also perfect.
  • Surprise cameo by Cheryl Strayed (the author) as the woman driving the truck, and her daughter played the younger version of Cheryl.
  • They managed to fit enough of the back-story that we get in the book in a way that wasn’t jarring or distracting.


  • I thought the end wrapped up too quickly. I would’ve liked to see a little bit more of her life right after the hike, how she put it back together.
  • Unnecessary changes, like the best friend’s name, and the deletion of Cheryl’s sister.
  • A lot of the characters she meets on the trail were cut out, due to movie time constraints. Understandable, but disappointing.
  • They compressed certain plot points/scenes to happen at the same time in the movie, when they happened farther apart in the book.
  • As miserable as she was on screen at points, I’m not sure the sheer exhaustion and struggle conveyed in the book came through fully.

Overall, I liked the book better. I’d also recommend reading the book before seeing the movie, as I think you’ll get more out of the movie that way. But they are both good, so pick your preferred format and go with it. 🙂

Have you read the book or seen the movie? What did you think?

I give the book 4/5 stars.

I give the movie 3/5 stars.

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