Here are some of the passages that made a big impression on Oprah—and notes on why she loves them.
Part One: The Ten Thousand Things
I set my toothbrush down, then leaned into the mirror and stared into my own eyes. I could feel myself disintegrating inside myself like a past-bloom flower in the wind. Every time I moved a muscle, another petal of me blew away. Please, I thought. Please.
Oprah's note: First of all, I love the notion of a person as a flower with the petals disintegrating. I don't ever recall having that feeling, but that image—so specific, so gorgeous—caused me to have great empathy for people who see themselves that way.
Part Two: Tracks
Fear, to a great extent, is born of a story we tell ourselves, and so I chose to tell myself a different story from the one women are told.
Oprah's note: I just love that line for all the obvious reasons. So much of who we are is born of the story we tell ourselves. Cheryl's courage is born of a different story. That's what was so exciting to me. Most people are stuck in the same story they've been telling themselves since they were ten years old.
What a mountain was and what a desert was were not the only things I had not expected. I hadn't expected the flesh on my tailbone and hips and the fronts of my shoulders to bleed.
Oprah's note: As I continued to read this book, I realized what a wuss-puss I am. For me, this kind of pain is all the more reason to turn back. But for Cheryl, the trip was about reclaiming herself. If she gives up on the trip, she gives up on herself.
The one for whom behind every hot pair of boots or sexy little skirt or flourish of the hair there was a trapdoor that led to the least true version of me.
Now there was only one version. On the PCT I had no choice but to inhabit it entirely, to show my grubby face to the whole wide world.
Oprah's note: This passage represents a shift in identity for Cheryl. Until this point, she was an idea of who she should be. The PCT stripped her raw—down to who she really was. I loved it because it shows her getting to the core of who she really is.
Part Three: Range of Light
I was soothed by their company. Being near Tom and Doug at night kept me from having to say to myself I am not afraid whenever I heard a branch snap in the dark or the wind shook so fiercely it seemed like something bad was bound to happen. But I wasn't out here to keep myself from having to say I am not afraid. I'd come, I realized, to stare that fear down, to stare everything down, really—all that I'd done to myself and all that had been done to me. I couldn't do that while tagging along with someone else.
Oprah's note: This is the definition of real courage to me: to stand in the face of fear and stare it down.
Next: More of Oprah's favorite linesThere are all the grand things he wanted to be, a longing so naked and sorry I sensed it and grieved it even as a young child. There is him singing that Charlie Rich song that goes "Hey, did you happen to see the most beautiful girl in the world?" and saying it was about me and my sister and our mother, that we were the most beautiful girls in the world.
Oprah's note: I love words, and there are some sentences that I love spoon-feeding to myself. This is one of those spoon-fed sentences. "A longing so naked and sorry": even if you've never had that kind of longing, it so accurately describes it that you know what that feels like.
Of all the things I'd been skeptical about, I didn't feel skeptical about this: the wilderness had a clarity that included me.
Oprah's note: That may be my favorite line in the whole book. First of all, it's so beautifully constructed, and it captures what this journey was all about. She started out looking to find herself—looking for clarity—and that's exactly what happens. The essence of the book is held right there in that sentence. It means that every step was worth it. It means all the skepticism of whether this hike is the right thing or not the right thing—it all gets resolved in that sentence.
Part Four: Wild
It seemed like a long time and also it seemed like my trip had just begun, like I was only now digging into whatever it was I was out here to do. Like I was still the woman with her hole in her heart, but the hole had gotten ever so infinitesimally smaller.
I took a drag and blew the smoke from my mouth remembering how I had felt more alone than anyone in the whole wide world that morning after Jimmy Carter drove away. Maybe I was more alone than anyone in the whole wide world.
Maybe that was okay.
Oprah's note: I liked the self-realization that's coming here: that if you can't be alone with yourself and be happy, then you can never be happy. All her life she's been running from herself, and finally she has this moment where she sees that she's alone—and that's really okay.
Miles weren't things that blazed dully past. They were long, intimate straggles of weeds and clumps of dirt, blades of grass and flowers that bent in the wind, trees that lumbered and screeched. They were the sound of my breath and my feet hitting the trail one step at a time and the click of my ski pole. The PCT had taught me what a mile was. I was humble before each and every one.
Oprah's note: Is that not the most gorgeous thing? I can't get over it. Do you not feel like you're on that trail right now? Walking with her? That's how I feel—as if I'm on that trail right now walking with her, and I can hear the clicking of the ski pole every time she puts it down.
There was the fact of the moon and the fact that I was sleeping out in the open on my tarp. There was the fact that I had woken because it seemed like small cool hands were gently patting me and the fact that small cool hands were gently patting me. And then there was the final fact of all, which was a fact more monumental than even the moon: the fact that those small cool hands were not hands, but hundreds of small cool black frogs. Small cool slimy black frogs jumping all over me.
Oprah's note: I think I could have handled the rattlesnake. I could have handled the bear. I would have been afraid, but I could have even handled men on the trail, if they hadn't bothered me. I would have been psychologically damaged forever—and I don't say that lightly—but I would still need to be cared for because I would become a babbling crazy person if I'd felt the little black frogs.
Next: The passage that created an aha moment for Oprah"The father's job is to teach his children how to be warriors, to give them the confidence to get on the horse to ride into battle when it's necessary to do so. If you don't get that from your father, you have to teach yourself."
Oprah's note: This was a big aha moment for me—if you don't get that confidence, you've got to teach yourself, and if you don't teach yourself, you can never win a battle. That's why, into my forties and fifties, I was still having trouble with confrontation, because I was never taught that.
Part Five: Box of Rain
What if I forgave myself? I thought. What if I forgave myself even though I'd done something I shouldn't have? What if I was a liar and a cheat and there was no excuse for what I'd done other than because it was what I wanted and needed to do?...What if I was never redeemed? What if I already was?
Oprah's note: That's the process of forgiving yourself. There can be no healing until that happens. Everybody has to do it one way or another. Love that.
These same flowers grew in the dirt where I'd spread her ashes. I reached out and touched the petals of one, feeling my anger drain out of my body.
Oprah's note: I could feel the presence of her mother all along this trail, and the crocus was just another example to me of the mystery and mysticism of life. I'm one of those readers who believes that the spirit of her mother showed up in the form of the fox. She was never, ever without the spirit of her mother on this hike.
Of course, heroin could be had there too, I thought. But the thing was I didn't want it. Maybe I never really had. I'd finally come to understand what it had been: a yearning for a way out, when actually what I wanted to find was a way in. I was there now, or close.
Oprah's note: That is the essence of what everybody's searching for—a way in. Everybody who thinks they're looking for a way out? They're looking for a way in. Is that not brilliant, or what?
And how it would be only then that the meaning of my hike would unfold inside of me, the secret I'd always told myself finally revealed.
Oprah's note: What I loved about this trip is that it opened her in ways that she did not have the words to articulate—even for years after. And that's what a pure opening does. You can't explain what it is at first. You just know you've been changed.