Years ago, I read an article in Outside Magazine by Jon Krakauer called Death of an Innocent which told the story of 24 year old Chris McCandless and how he died alone in the Alaskan wilderness while pursuing a life of adventure and integrity. A fascinating story, Krakauer later wrote the bestselling book, Into the Wild, which further detailed McCandless’s final two years and what led him into the Alaskan wilderness in the first place. Wildly popular, Into the Wild was later made into an award winning movie directed by Sean Penn. I love both the book and the movie, Into the Wild. Chris’s search for something greater has always resonated with me.
The Wild Truth
Recently, Carine McCandless, Chris’s sister, published The Wild Truth which delves into the family trauma that led Chris to donate his life savings, abandon his car and set off on his own for adventures across America before heading to Alaska which he saw as the ultimate test of his ability to live a life of integrity. Now estranged from her parents, Carine writes about the turmoil she, Chris and the rest of their half siblings endured as children from the dysfunctional relationship of their parents. As Carine and Chris were exceptionally close, their life story is intertwined and by reading Carine’s life story, you are able to better understand Chris’s. The book includes numerous pictures of their childhood and it is fascinating to better understand what led him to Alaska. Anyone who felt moved by Into the Wild will also want to read this book, if only to better understand what happened.
Reading The Wild Truth was bittersweet. It’s hard to not feel overcome with frustration with the choices Chris makes since we, of course, know how his life ends. And his story is not without controversy as Diana Saverin writes in a more recent Outside Article. Not everyone thinks of him as a tragic hero. Yet in The Wild Truth, Carine McCandless presents the argument that though tragic, Chris died at peace with his past and had lived the life he was meant to. By reading The Wild Truth, I am glad to have more pieces to the puzzle that was the life and tragic death of Chris McCandless.
“The very basic core of a man’s living spirit is his passion for adventure. The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun.” –Chris McCandless