Into The Wild by John Krakauer
Genre: Non Fiction/Biography
Published: January 20, 1997
My Rating: 3/5 Stars
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, his decomposed body was found by a party of moose hunters. How McCandless came to die is the unforgettable story of Into the Wild.
Immediately after graduating from college in 1991, McCandless had roamed through the West and Southwest on a vision quest like those made by his heroes Jack London and John Muir. In the Mojave Desert he abandoned his car, stripped it of its license plates, and burned all of his cash. He would give himself a new name, Alexander Supertramp, and , unencumbered by money and belongings, he would be free to wallow in the raw, unfiltered experiences that nature presented. Craving a blank spot on the map, McCandless simply threw the maps away. Leaving behind his desperate parents and sister, he vanished into the wild.
Where to start??? *sigh* I have a hard time reviewing and rating non-fiction and especially biographies. I’m usually torn between reviewing the actual writing with reviewing my opinions on the actual subject.
So, I’ll start with the writing….I like Joh Krakauer. I’ve read one of his other books, Into Thin Air, last year about the 1996 Mt Everest climbing disaster. I really enjoy his writing style…you can just feel his love, knowledge and excitement he has for mountain climbing and the outdoors, in general. I feel like he, as an author, does a really good job of giving interesting information as well as telling a story. Just like Into Thin Air, I learned quite a bit from this book, which I enjoyed.
As for the subject of the book…Christopher McCandless….I have mixed feelings about him and the choices he made. I’m torn between understating that he was a young, naive, idealistic 20-something with a strong sense of wanderlust and feeling like he was a sometimes rude, inconsiderate, entitled, thoughtless and selfish person who possibly has undiagnosed bi-polar disorder (not that I’m in anyway qualified to diagnose that). One quote in the book summed up my feelings for him pretty well: “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.”
Krakauer, because of his own personal history at the same age, tries to explain away McCandless’ mistakes and inconsideration for his own safety and the feelings of others with youthful idealism. But I’m not so sure. It was an interesting read for me and the 3 star rating didn’t mean I didn’t enjoy it… it just meant that I’m not sure I agree with Krakauer’s overall opinion of his subject. But then again…I’m not sure I completely disagree either.
I see this book as a good cautionary tale and I think it could definitely make for good discussion in either a book club or in the high school or college classroom.