Book Review: Into the Wild

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

I hope my book reviews will help you find something new and interesting to read!
I don't mean them to be critiques or spoilers.
Just my thoughts and feelings as I read.

Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer

Summary: In this book, the author attempts to explain and describe the tragic journey of Chris McCandless. This young man came from a wealthy family in Virginia. He was intelligent, talented and charitable. He had many friends and eventually received an undergraduate degree from Emery. He was a student of Walden and wanted to escape society for a while to live off the land. After graduation, he set off on a driving tour of the western US. His travels included southern California, Mexico, North Dakota and northern California. He made many friends along the way who would give him rides and a place to stay. Given the interviews and the knowledge collected by the author, McCandless never attempted to have any romantic relationships along his travels. He wrote postcards and short letters to the friends he met along the way and to his family. When he felt it was the right time, he burned all of his money and set off into the real adventure he had been planning: the Alaskan bush. He was found dead four months later.

Thoughts: I found Krakauer to be an in-depth and exciting writer. I finished the 203 page book in about three days. I couldn't put it down because the story is so tragic and arresting. I grew to like McCandless, he seemed like someone Nate and I would enjoy being friends with. Then there were times I wish he hadn't been so stupid. He didn't have near enough supplies for four months in the Alaskan bush. Although, considering what he had, he actually did pretty well for himself. What bugged me the most was that he refused to learn anything at all about the area. He did not bring a map (which would have saved his life).

I just kept thinking about how tragic it all was. He believed he was fulfilling his potential, truly living off the land. I believe many men (at least men like my husband) relate well to this story. They want to set off and become a part of the land, leave society behind for a time and find their true selves. Or just simply enjoy the challenge of the wild. I don't relate well to this. Living without people terrifies me. I like having luxuries like, um, toilets and beds.

The part that almost made me cry is when the reader realizes McCandless was trying to leave the bush about a month before he died. He had fulfilled his challenge, his university of self vs. nature. He wanted to return to real life and contribute to society. Why he wasn't able to leave is pure speculation. I'll let you read the story to find out for yourself.

The author includes many comments from readers about their reactions to this story. Most find him ignorant and idealistic. How would he have been received if he survived? Would anyone even know about his story? I don't think he is the type of person to publish his adventures. But would he have truly gone full-hearted back to society? Would he have settled down, or was he just too restless?

I don't know if I can say the story truly affected me enough to change anything about me. Perhaps it motivated me to give our children reason to come home and be a part of something other than their own obscure challenges. I will say that being married, raising a family well and contributing positively to society is all the challenge I will need.
And I meet that challenge with open arms.


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