Thursday, 18 August 2016

Review: Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer

Title: Into the Wild
Author: Jon Krakauer
Publisher: Anchor Books
Pages: 240
Genres: Non-Fiction, Narrative

Into the Wild
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.

Jon Krakauer constructs a clarifying prism through which he reassembles the disquieting facts of McCandless's short life. Admitting an interst that borders on obsession, he searches for the clues to the dries and desires that propelled McCandless. Digging deeply, he takes an inherently compelling mystery and unravels the larger riddles it holds: the profound pull of the American wilderness on our imagination; the allure of high-risk activities to young men of a certain cast of mind; the complex, charged bond between fathers and sons.
There is something about Chris McCandless's story that just speaks to me. Renouncing family and societal expectations to live essentially as a homeless person doesn't sound like the easiest thing to do. I feel like I understand why he did it - I am sure many people have felt highly disillusioned with life and other people, including family. I know I have. So I am really surprised at how polarising Chris's story is, many people think he got what he deserved for being what they perceive to be stupid. I don't subscribe to that harsh view.

I think Jon Krakauer did a brilliant job of presenting Chris as a troubled young man who was kind, intelligent and had many talents. Sadly he made some mistakes that led to his death which simply was unlucky. I like how Krakauer described numerous other men that did similar things and almost had similar fates, himself included in a near death mountaineering experience. The great tragedy of this story is the fact that Chris was one of the few who paid the ultimate price when that didn't need to be the case. This book was hard to read in parts and plenty of tears were shed.

I really enjoyed reading the selected quoted passages from the literature that Chris admired, I think it really gave an insight into what he was thinking and his choice to fend for himself in the Alaskan bush. I mean sure, he was unprepared and did not possess even a map of the area that could have saved him but he paid for that with his life so I can't condemn him for it. I think his story is equally inspiring as well as being a cautionary tale.

Haunting and unputdownable, Chris's story will certainly stick with me.

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