10 January 2009

Review of Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer

This is an odd book to review because it is difficult to separate my feelings toward the actions of Chris McCandless and the writing of the book. Normally, strong feelings about the main character would say something about the writing, but this story is a biography, so any reaction I had toward the main character’s actions was more of a statement about the person and not about the writing.

For those that do not know the story of Chris McCandless, he was a young man who hitchhiked his way to Alaska to live off the land. I heard about him in an English class. I pictured a daring young man. Someone who was not afraid to take chances and who lived the dream many people have had. There have been times that I was tempted to drop everything and just start walking. No phones, no television, no computers. It sounds wonderful, but then I would receive a call from my husband. I would be reminded of those that love me and my responsibilities towards them. This is where my issues with Chris McCandless begin. Yes, he was daring and brave, but he was also selfish and cruel. He left without a word to any of his family about his plans. For years they did not know what happened to him or where he was. He never called to say, “Hey mom! I’m okay and having the time of my life. Don’t worry.” His lack of regard towards his responsibilities as a son and brother effected me the most. Other people may be more irritated by his lack of planning before going into the wilds of Alaska, and others still may empathize with his wondering spirit. Regardless of your personal views and situations, there is something in Chris McCandless’s story to which you will react strongly.

As for the writing, it was average. The author did illustrate the good and the bad of McCandless, but it was not a secret that the author saw him as a bit of a hero. I did not care for the way the story’s time line was told in a circle. He told the story from beginning to end, but did not provide the full story. After reaching the end he then returned to the beginning of the story to fill in the holes. I think this was done so that the reader would have a better understanding of McCandless’s thoughts and feelings that drove his actions, but the method fell short. I just found it annoying. The author also included some personal experiences, so that the reader would be more likely to sympathize than to judge. Again, I felt the method fell short. I actually skimmed over these sections, because they slowed down the story.

The tale of Chris McCandless is almost a cliche. A young man leaves home to find himself by wandering the country and living in the wilds. It is a coming of age and survival story that everyone has heard before. The book Into the Wild does not offer anything new to this kind of tale. If someone is interested in reading specifically about Chris McCandless, they would get just as much information and save time by reading the news release.

Copyright 2008 Jennifer Beaujon

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