In the summer of 1990, Christopher McCandless donated all of his $25,000 in savings to charity, gave away most of his possessions and all of his cash, and left for a singular, solo adventure, never to be heard from again by those who loved him.
That is, until his decomposed body was found in the Alaskan wilderness in August of 1992.
Into the Wild, by Jon Krakauer, is the biographical depiction of the events that led to McCandless’ departure and all the adventures he had along the way.
It was an interesting coincidence that I picked this book up to read considering I had just finished On The Road by Jack Kerouac I wrote a review about it back in October and it was an amazing tale of the beat culture during the early 20′s. In that story, Kerouac tells of his own life, on the road, hitchhiking, finding work and just living life.
Into the Wild is almost the same tale and I think Kerouac might have been an influence to Christopher.
Krakauer had a tough job in getting this book done. It all started when he heard the story of his body being found in Alaska, inside a bus where he apparently died of starvation. Krakauer put together a 9,000 word article on the subject and little did he know what chain of events that would start.
The first of which were people writing letters and calling his magazine with information that they knew him. The second event was his own obsession with the story.
Krakauer interviewed so many people for this book, it’s amazing. He tracked them down all over the country, from California and Arizona, to South Dakota and Alaska.
The author himself was an adventurer, and one of the most compelling part of the book for me is towards the end when he talks about his own forage into the wilderness, which was to climb The Devils Thumb in Alaska, which turned out to be a wall of ice like 6,000 feet high.
That narrative alone got my heart pounding.
The understanding that Krakauer has of the inner motivation of McCandless made him the perfect person to write this book. He doesn’t necessarily slant everything to the opinion he has of Christopher’s quest, but I agree with most of what he tries to say.
There has been a lot of controversy over this kid’s decision to leave his family and never speak to them again and then to make an attempt to live off the land in the brutal conditions of the Alaskan wilderness only to succumb to the elements. But he took a picture of himself just days before his death (shown right) and he was smiling and in good spirits it appeared.
Some called him foolish, others pegged him as suicidal.
Krakauer has his own opinion, but he leaves it up to you to form your own.
This was a fantastic book, full of research, quotes from other books and the involvement of McCandless’ family. The route he took across the country, the people he met, the odd jobs he picked up…all of it is described and depicted in a highly enjoyable way.
(Not to mention, this also took care of #42 on my 101 in 1001 todo list, “read a biography.”)
The movie form of this book was released this summer and is on my MUST SEE list. The screenplay was written by Sean Penn, with help from Krakauer and the permission and help of Christopher’s family.
You can buy the book here at Amazon.com.
AML Rating: A