Cheryl Strayed was 22 when her mother, who was only 45, died of lung cancer. At 26, still devastated by grief, grappling with heroin addiction, with her marriage falling apart, Strayed decided to take a 1,100-km hike along the Pacific Crest trail – alone.

These are the painful circumstances from which her memoir, Wild, springs. It is a testament to Strayed’s talent as a writer and wisdom as a human being that the book is, above all, elevating.

As New York Times critic Dwight Garner wrote in a review: “It’s uplifting, but not in the way of many memoirs, where the uplift makes you feel that you’re committing mental suicide. This book is as loose and sexy and dark as an early Lucinda Williams song. It’s got a punk spirit and makes an earthy and American sound.”

Strayed sets out on the trail a complete novice, with no experience of having hiked before. It is with sheer force of will that she carries on through what is very often difficult terrain. Her path is marked by people, some of them helpful, some threatening. The journey marks an immense period of learning and growth for Strayed – a real-life Bildungsroman.

The book has been a huge success. It was the first selection for Oprah Winfrey’s Oprah’s Book Club 2.0, and soon after, reached number 1 on the New York Times bestseller list. Subsequently, it won a number of honours, including the Readers’ Choice Award at the Oregon Book Awards in 2013. By last year, it had been translated into thirty languages.

Published in 2012.