Rating: 3 Stars ★★★☆☆
Greetings from Fairbanks! This is the last you shall here from me Wayne.
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 moose hunter. How McCandless came to die is the unforgettable story of Into the Wild.
Let me start by saying that reviewing these kinds of books is always a bit weird. Because on the one hand, I don’t feel like it’s my place to judge McCandless. However, it’s almost impossible not to form an opinion about him when reading this book.
In the end, I felt very ambivalent about him. On the one hand, he seemed a bit… saintly?
McCandless would wander the seedier quarters of Washington, chatting with prositutes and homeless people, buying them meals, earnestly suggesting ways they might improve their lives.
Just the bits and pieces we get from him, the way he wrote and talked, it was a bit… weird. At the same time, he obvioudly was incredibly charming and all kinds of different people felt very close to him after just a short amount of time.
I feel the same way about his decision to leave everything behind and walk into the wild. On the one hand, it is really hard to understand how he could embark on this adventure so unprepared.
Alex’s cheap leather hiking boots were neither waterproof nor well insulated. His rifle was only .22 caliber, a bore to small to rely on if he expected to kill large animals like moose and caribou, which he would have to eat if he hoped to remain very long in the country. He had no ax, no bug dope, no snowshoes, no compass. The only navigational aid in his possession was a tattered state road map he’d scrounged at a gas station.
On the other hand, he was very resourceful, otherwise he wouldn’t have survived as long as he did. And in the end, it wasn’t his lack of an ax that killed him. His lack of a good map played a role but still, he did some very impressive things.
And to be honest… this urge to leave everything behind, to just travel the world unbound… I think everyone knows it. Chris McCandless just actually did it.
If this adventure proves fatal and you don’t ever hear from me again I want you to know you’re a great man. I now walk into the wild.
Overall, Jon Krakauer paints a balanced account of Chris McCandless’ life and his last days. It is a fascinating, if tragic, story.
One of his last acts was to take a picture of himself standing near the bus under the high Alaska sky, one hand holding his final note toward the camera lens, the other raised in a brave, beatific farewell.
Jon Krakauer paints a very vivid, balanced picture of McCandless’ life.