Review: Into the Wild
**TW: This book review focuses on difficult topics such as death and a link to a Watch Mojo video that discusses tragedy through seemingly normal photos**
Title: Into the Wild
Author: Jon Krakauer
Published: 20 January 1997 (originally published 1996)
Memorable Quote: “It is easy, when you are young, to believe that what you desire is no less than what you deserve, to assume that if you want something badly enough it is your God-given right to have it”.
Synopsis (from Goodreads): In April, 1992, a young man from a well-to-do family hitchhiked to Alaska and walked alone into the wilderness north of Mt. McKinley. His name was Christopher Johnson McCandless. He had given $25,000 in savings to charity, abandoned his car and most of his possessions, burned all the cash in his wallet, and invented a new life for himself. Four months later, a party of moose hunters found his decomposed body. How McCandless came to die is the unforgettable story of Into the Wild.
Rating: 4/5 stars
I don’t normally read nonfiction, but last month I watched a video on Watch Mojo titled: “Top 20 Normal Looking Photos with Disturbing Backstories”, and Chris McCandless waving what looks like ‘hello’ but is actually ‘goodbye’ is one of the stories discussed (It’s actually the image they used to advertise the video). *The video is linked below and will play if you click on it. Please view with caution as many tragedies are discussed*
Immediately, I thought the photo looked anything but normal, however, I was captivated by the brief summary Watch Mojo provided of Chris McCandless and immediately began researching his life, when I found the book Into the Wild. Without a second thought, I jumped in.
“It is hardly unusual for a young man to be drawn to a pursuit considered reckless by his elders; engaging in risky behavior is a rite of passage in our culture no less than in most others. Danger has always held a certain allure. That, in large part, is why so many teenagers drive too fast and drink too much and take too many drugs, why it is so easy for nations to recruit young men to go to war”
Despite being nonfiction, Into the Wild reads a great deal like a novel, and it is easy to imagine everything that McCandless went through during his short travels. I appreciated that lines from his journals were quotes, though I definitely wish that some photos had been included in the book.
I found McCandless to be a person that frustrated and fascinated me. It was clear he could be an arrogant, self-assured young man who survived on some clever choices, but also a great deal of luck. However, he was also just that – a young man who had more questions than the world had answers. Call him foolish, if you must, but he certainly did not deserve to die. While he lacked experience and knowledge going into the Alaskan tundra, he managed to survive on his own for some time.
“Same story: idealistic, energetic young guys who overestimated themselves, underestimated the country, and ended up in trouble”
The story of Chris McCandless is heartbreaking, but serves as a cautionary tale. I know I’ve felt the urge to let go of everything and live out on my own, but I have grounded myself with family, friends, love, and my pets. I could not leave them. I take as much time as I can, however, to travel and explore – even if it is exploring my small city.
“How is it that a kid with so much compassion could cause his parents so much pain?”
It is heartbreaking that his family did not know where he was or what was happening to him. For them, my heart absolutely hurts. I can’t imagine the pain becomes less, even twenty-something years later.
Maybe because he had been so lucky in the past, McCandless thought that Alaska would be the same. Some bad days, but he would persevere, as he always did. Although he perished far too young, he lived how he wanted to and accepted his death – alone and cold in Alaska – which is quite brave, in my opinion. I can’t imagine being alone, weak, and so cold like that.
Like Icarus becoming more thrilled with flying that he did not know when to stop and flew too close to the sun, McCandless did not know when to stop pushing his own limitations.
Overall, Into the Wild was well-written, heart-breaking, and a very interesting read. I would definitely read it again, though I will better prepare myself emotionally for how draining this book is. I also watched the last scene of the movie. Although the movie looks interesting, I don’t think I’ll be watching it. The last five minutes made me cry enough.
Thanks for reading!