Jennifer's Reviews > Into the Wild

Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer
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Aug 08, 09

bookshelves: read-2009
Recommended to Jennifer by: Kelly
Recommended for: anyone who was an adolescent male or who has known one
Read in August, 2009

I was somewhat familiar with the story of Chris McCandless, having read some articles about the movie when it came out a few years ago, but I was unprepared for how gripping and thought-provoking I found this book. Krakauer does a good job of peeling back the layers of McCandless's story but also showing the limits of what an outsider could understand about the situation--even a writer/journalist who felt a similar urge to get away from society and test his limits.

For those who don't know the story, Chris McCandless hitchhiked up to Alaska in April of 1992 and hiked into the wilderness on something called The Stampede Trail. Four months later, his body was found by hunters in an abandonned bus. Though Chris kept a sporadic journal which was found along with a handful of heavily annotated books, the exact circumstances of his death are not fully known. Did he eat a plant that looked like a wild potato? Was he a naive and foolish greenhorn done in by his own ignorance? Was he brought down by a mix of circumstances that could have befallen the most experienced of outdoorsman?

The circumstances leading up to Chris's hike into the wilderness are just as complex and interesting as what happened once he hit the trail and I was particularly intrigued by the way he seemed to profoundly touch the lives of the people he encountered on his journey--away from a privileged DC suburb and high parental expectations to an itinerant life lived on the edge of society. He not only left his family griefstricken with loss and questions but a large number of friends--from South Dakota to California.

Though some goodread's reviewers didn't like the various detours that Krakauer's text takes as he brings in stories of others' experiences "into the wild" including the author's own, I liked the way that these narratives both connected and diverged from McCandless's own. I'm not sure how I feel about what Chris did--to his family and friends--but Krakauer succeeds in bringing him to life on the page in all his complexity--not easily categorized, analyzed, or dismissed.
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