Many book clubs have read Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer, the compelling true story of a young man who turned his back on a life of privilege to hitchhike across America. Chris McCandless grew up in Annandale, Va. After graduating from Woodson High School and Emory University, Chris gave his remaining college funds to charity, abandoned his car and embarked on a two year journey (self-described as a "spiritual pilgrimage”) through the U.S. ending in Alaska. He took some of his favorite books and reflected on what it means to live an unscripted life. Sadly, he was eventually found dead of starvation in Alaska. The book became a hit film with the same title.
While many admired his quest for self-sufficiency and meaning, many readers of Krakauer's book were angered and puzzled by the fact that Chris refused to contact his worried parents while he was away. They had gone so far as to hire a private investigator in attempt to locate him, but Chris had jettisoned his old identity and was traveling under an assumed name.
In The Wild Truth, a new book by Carine McCandless, the sister of Chris McCandless clears up some of the mystery surrounding his choices. Carine reveals family troubles, including deceit and domestic abuse, which were at least partially behind Chris’ decision to disappear. She includes letters from Chris, one in which Chris declares his plan to "divorce" their parents forever.
Carine had shared these letters with Krakauer as he was writing Into the Wild, but asked him not use the material in the book. Krakauer writes in his introduction to The Wild Truth that he attempted to imply some of the reasons behind Chris' disappearing act without revealing confidential sources or creating further pain for the grieving parents. Carine McCandless explains that she felt it was time to set the record straight so that people would have a better understanding of Chris and his motives. Far from being just a salacious tell-all, the book is a touching story of their brother-sister bond and Carine's own personal journey recovering from a dysfunctional home.
The story of Chris McCandless has fascinated people around the world, but it is of particular interest to readers in Fairfax County, Va., due to the fact that Chris spent most of his life here. Book clubs that have already read Into the Wild may wish to further their exploration of the subject with The Wild Truth.
-Suzanne Summers LaPierre, Kings Park Library