In The New York Times, Dwight Garner wrote that "the lack of ease in (Strayed's) life made her fierce and funny; she hammers home her hard-won sentences like a box of nails," adding that the memoir reflected a "too infrequent sight: that of a writer finding her voice, and sustaining it, right in front of your eyes."
In The New York Times, Dani Shapiro called the book "spectacular... at once a breathtaking adventure tale and a profound meditation on the nature of grief and survival, ... both a literary and human triumph." Shapiro wrote that unlike many parallel-arc stories, Strayed's two parallel narratives—the challenging hike itself and the difficult life events that preceded it—are delivered in perfect balance. According to Shapiro, the memoir did not overdramatize its events, but followed a "powerful, yet understated, imperative to understand (their) meaning," allowing readers "to feel how her actions and her internal struggles intertwine, and appreciate the lessons she finds embedded in the natural world."
In Slate, Melanie Rehak began by contrasting Wild with the 2006 memoir Eat, Pray, Love—whose story was "pleasant, mild, romantic, and completely lacking urgency" and in which everything would work out. In contrast, Wild was said to be "crammed with... passages of vicious discomfort" and was carried by a voice that was "fierce, billowing with energy, precise." Crediting the years that passed between Strayed's 1995 hike and her 2012 memoir, Rehak wrote that Strayed had "fine control" over "unfathomable, enormous experiences" and never wrote "from a place of desperation in the kind of semi-edited purge state that has marred so many true stories."
By the time of the film Wild's release, in December 2014 A.O. Scott wrote in The New York Times that Strayed's memoir was "already a classic of wilderness writing and modern feminism." In 2019, Anna Leahy wrote in the Los Angeles Review of Books that Wild was likely the most popular memoir approaching the subject of cancer from the perspectives of loved ones and caregivers.