Thursday, November 8, 2007

Into the Wild — Jon Krakauer

The interesting thing about reading a book in which you already (kind of) know how it ends (since it is an actual researched text on the life and death of a real person) is discovering how it can capture your interest and your heart as though it were a work of fiction. That is what happens with this book, and it's strange to think that it is almost nothing more than a collection of essays, interviews and reports.

Jon Krakauer delves into the world of Christopher Johnson McCandless, who after graduating from college embarked on a 2-year-long journey, alone, across the United States and met a terrible end after attempting to live in the Alaskan wilderness during the summer of 1993. Krakauer is meticulous in his research, drawing from interviews he's conducted with many of the people that McCandless (who took on the nom de plume "Alexander Supertramp") came in contact with, and whose lives he touched.

One of the main things that makes Chris' story so harrowing is that it is impossible to deny how smart, kind and giving he was. He understood the world he lived in. He understood his own life. He knew what he wanted and he wouldn't let anyone or anything stop him from getting it. He was a true traveler — someone who genuinely lived off the land and kept moving. Though stubborn, in many respects, he never refused an opportunity to work hard and learn from people. And people, as a result, learned from him.

Krakauer attempts to discover the reasons behind his decision to leave his family, all this money, his life behind him and, subsequently, never look back. He poignantly addresses the connection Chris had with nature, the love he had for literature, and the aspirations he held for making his way to Alaska. And with heartbreaking clarity, he gives details concerning Chris' less-than-perfect family life, as well as a detailed description of his death.

Reading Into the Wild was certainly a different experience than seeing the newly-released movie by Sean Penn. The film is a worthy, beautiful and precise adaptation, but with the book comes (aside from more details about Chris' journey), analysis of other people's journeys into the wilderness that shed light on what Chris might have intended in embarking on such a dangerous journey. Krakauer covers all of his bases, never stopping short of giving as much information as is possible for him to give, making the book a brilliantly conceived page-turner.

In the end, even though Chris' 'story' seems unfinished considering the type of person he was and could have become, there is a sense of completeness; the reader is left with a sense that he truly discovered something worthwhile. Something that really has the power to resonate. Something that he was able to leave behind.



  1. Hey Stacy ... ever thought of becoming a writer?!? I mean ... it's something to consider, right? This was a lovely review and so was "Love in the Time of Cholera" ... I think reading your reviews makes the books so inviting! That's definitely a talent. I have Krakauer's book and now I want to read it ... and I'm going to get "The Kite Runner" as the copy here at home was loaned to Mom I guess ... so ... how about a review of that book? Thanks for sharing your thoughts and inspiring reading. Ever thought of being a teacher?!?! :) oh, yeah!! you got the gift! Love you, Dad
    P.S. Thanksgiving is coming soon -- you'll have to stroll through the 'garage' library while you're home ... can't wait to see you and Kim!

  2. Just finished the book. Dad let me read it first. It is all you say and more. Anyone who feels the need to go in to the wilderness to commune with nature, find themselves, experience the extreme challenges the world has to offer should read this book. What's great is that it doesn't tell you not to go, just be prepared. Can't wait to talk about it with you.