Born in western
Pennsylvania in 1968, Strayed spent
most of her formative yearsfrom the
age of five until her
mid-twentiesin Minnesota. Torch
takes place in the fictional town of
Midden, Minnesota, based on her
hometown of McGregor. "It's my
literary landscape; my spiritual
home," she says. "No matter how far
I wander, I often travel back to
Minnesota when I sit down to write."
Before turning to her first novel, Strayed wrote a number of essays, one of which is titled "Heroin/e" and was included in Best American Essays (2000). It tells of her own experiences with her mother's cancer (her mother, like Teresa in Torch, died in her forties when Cheryl was in her early 20s) and her subsequent battle with drugs.