A couple of days after posting a blog (posted Dec. 20, 2014) based on the book, Into the Wild (1996) by Jon Krakauer, I received a response from Tim Shey, a blogger in his own right, who informed me that a new book on the life of Chris McCandless, The Wild Truth (2014) had just recently been published.
Chris McCandless was the young man featured in Into the Wild, a compelling book that documented his quest for truth and personal freedom, a journey that ultimately ended with his death in the Alaskan wilderness. The new book, The Wild Truth, is written by Chris’s sister, Carine McCandless, and is important because she describes the dysfunctional behavior of her parents that led to Chris disappearing and pursuing his quest. Carine holds nothing back as she reveals the selfish, manipulative, and violent behavior that regularly took place in her home. I am amazed at her courage in sharing the details of her own life, which included her admitting her own ineffective behaviors.
Throughout the book, though, there is a tone of love and a consistent desire for forgiveness and reconciliation. I don’t know how much to say here, as I don’t want to spoil the book for those of you who are as fascinated with this family’s story as I am. Suffice it to say that The Wild Truth fills in holes that Into the Wild didn’t address.
Carine actually asked Krakauer not to share details regarding her parents’ behavior and the dynamics in their home, which Krakauer honored, but it left us guessing as to what really went on between these parents and their two children. After her brother’s death, and as Krakauer was writing the manuscript for Into the Wild, Carine still hoped her parents would “get it,” that they would understand the effects of their behavior on Chris, and would see their role in his disappearance. The Wild Truth shares what Carine asked Krakauer not to share, and as painful as the story is, it depicts important lessons for all of us.
There was so much control and dishonesty constantly present in this home and Chris McCandless didn’t want to be around it anymore. Carine McCandless wanted us to understand that Chris’s journey wasn’t just about independence, freedom, and truth. He admired each of those qualities, but to understand Chris you have to recognize his desire to separate himself from toxic external control. If you think I am going overboard by using the word toxic, read the book.
Chris ultimately became free of the toxic control when he died in the bus in Alaska. He faced tough challenges during his self-imposed exile, especially during the last 100 days of his life in an isolated wilderness, but I actually think that Carine’s journey has been even more challenging. Chris left this planet much too early. In his effort to get away from the toxicity, he paid with his life. The toxicity can no longer reach him, though. Carine, on the other hand, lived on and has had to deal with more than her fair share of challenges – her parents’ dysfunctional behavior, the loss of her brother, and her own failed relationships, to name a few. Hitting the road on your own (as Chris did) can be tough; hanging in there at home and trying to be there for others, even as your life seems to be getting harder and harder, is tougher.
If you have read Into the Wild, you need to now read The Wild Truth. If you haven’t read either book, plan on reading both.
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