On April 28, 1992, twenty-four-year-old Christopher McCandless walked into the untamed wilderness of northern Alaska. Having donated all his savings to charity, abandoned his car, and burned all the cash in his wallet, he was fully prepared to forge a new life for himself. However, only four months later, he was found dead by the Sushana River.
In Into the Wild, acclaimed journalist and outdoorsman Jon Krakauer attempts to crack the case of what killed Chris McCandless. He retraces McCandless’ steps from his former life as a member of a well-off family in Virginia to his increasingly meandering, wanderlust-filled travels across the continent to, eventually, the fatal trip to Alaska. Krakauer intersperses his findings with personal information and claims, including facts about McCandless’ home life and how it led to his Alaska trip, as well as events from Krakauer’s own life, such as his ascension of the Devil’s Thumb.
Into the Wild balances the themes of the call of the wilderness with the pull of familial ties, the desire to explore the world with the need to settle down, the need for belonging with the desire to discover one’s true identity, and more. Though it is a nonfiction book, it certainly reads like an adventure novel, admittedly tinged with sadness because of the inevitable conclusion.
While I am personally not one for the outdoors, I appreciated and was intrigued by Krakauer’s writing style. He manages to create an investigative survival story out of McCandless’ story in a way that keeps the reader hooked on both McCandless’ adventures and his family’s concern back East. In the end, although McCandless’ story has a tragic ending, it not only serves as a lesson for aspiring naturalists who wish to “live off the land” as he tried to do, but also to regular people living their lives, encouraging them to follow their dreams, whatever they may be, or wherever they may lead them.
– Mahak M.