Who hasn’t thought, however briefly, of leaving the rat race behind and getting closer to nature?
Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer is a nonfiction account of Chris McCandless, aka Alexander Supertramp, a bright, 24 year old college graduate who gives all his money to charity and drops out of society on an Alaskan quest. Leaving his family and friends behind, he tells no one where he’s going. For 3 years, he wanders, having adventures and preparing for Alaska. He makes it to Alaska and walks into ‘the wild’ with 10 lbs of rice and not a whole lot more. He survives the Alaskan wilderness for 16 weeks before succumbing to starvation.
Was he stupid? No. Was he suicidal? I don’t think so. So how did this happen?
Jon Krakauer attempts to answer that through research and interviews with McCandless’ family and those who met him during his “lost” years. He makes comparisons to other “adventurers” and assorted nutballs who did similar things, with similarly disastrous results. It is a well written account of what may have happened to Chris during his odyssey. Granted, much of it is speculation, but Krakauer’s research is thorough and was made easier by the fact that McCandless left an indelible impression on those he met.
He felt things deeply, passionately. He stayed in written contact with people he met only briefly. People gave him rides, boots, jobs, sandwiches, advice. In one case, an elderly gentleman was so affected by him that he offered to adopt him. He brought out a protective instinct in acquaintances. Maybe they could see what he was.. a bright, caring, idealistic, naïve, ill-prepared wanderer who needed help.
I think my opinion of Into the Wild might have been different in my youth. Maybe I could have related better to Chris’ wanderlust. But, as a parent, I had so many mixed emotions. For almost 3 years, this kid (ok, sorry, Young Adult) wandered the western states without so much as a phone call or a postcard to his parents or sister. 3 years! I couldn’t help thinking, “Grow up! Call your mom!” This was not a kid from a broken home; he was not abused or neglected. He just selfishly wanted to be lost. And so he was..
For another book set in Alaska, check out my review of Winterdance: The Fine Madness or Running the Iditarod
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