When American author Cheryl Strayed hiked the Pacific Crest Trail in 1995 and wrote about her experience in her 2012 best-selling memoir Wild, her story touched many people who said they felt connected to her. But it turns out there was one woman who actually was.
"The human experience is full of serendipity and surprise and situations taking a turn that you didn't expect," Strayed tells NPR. "As shocked as I was to be reading that email ... I also had this feeling that I knew that was coming."
The email that Strayed refers to is one she received in the summer of 2012. In it, a woman describes how the two are related, namely that they share the same father. The woman came to learn this based on Strayed's descriptions of their father in her memoir, even though their father was unnamed.
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Her half-sister, interested in travel books, borrowed Wild from the library and as Strayed describes, "She was halfway into chapter one when she said she sat bolt upright in bed and realized that we had the same father."
Wild describes Strayed's journey into self-exploration after overcoming a divorce, her past drug abuse and her mother's death.
As a testament to the effectiveness of Stayed as a writer, it was her written descriptions of her father, full of insights into his demeanour and personality, that caused her sister to recognize him.
"I think that one of the things the writer does is try to describe accurately, not just the way somebody looks, but the way they are, the way they seem to others around them," she explains.
Neither of the two women currently have a relationship with their father and have been estranged from him for some time, though they have swapped stories about their experiences with him.
So far, the siblings have only communicated through email, and have yet to meet in person or talk on the phone.
"We are half-sisters and I do hope that someday we'll meet," says Strayed. "I'm sort of phone shy. I've not suggested that."