There is a telling episode about a month into Cheryl Strayed’s epic 1,100-mile hike along the Pacific Crest Trail that captures the offbeat charm of this book. Filthy and dishevelled, Strayed is trying to hitch a ride to get back on the trail. A journalist mistakes her for a hobo, wants to interview her for the Hobo Times, and comments on the irony of her name. She fervently insists that she is not a hobo but an ‘expert hiker’. However, in a typically self-dramatising act, she changed her name to Strayed after her recent divorce. ‘Unmoored by sorrow’ following her beloved mother’s sudden death from cancer four years earlier, and estranged from her family, she chose the name to reflect how she felt: alone, adrift in the world, ‘an actual stray’.