Unexpected, unusual, compelling… are the first three words that come to mind from my personal experience with Jon Krakauer’s telling of the story of Christopher McCandless. Reading into the wild is a bit of a pilgrimage for us travellers. And if you’re looking for another reason to read the book or watch the film, let me share some of my thoughts. While I know this book won’t be for everyone (critics were rife when this book was released in 1996), I know that for me, I found this book hard to put down and it certainly sparked a few thoughts towards my own travels.
McCandless as depicted in the film adaption, “Into the Wild”.
Book Review: Into the Wild
I read this book on a full day bus trip through Japan recently and instantly knew it was a story I wanted to share with WOW readers and the WOW Book Clubbers. I also knew instantly that the story would not suit everyone, but I found the book so engaging and intriguing that I thought at the very least, it was a good read that would keep you engaged and interested to find out how the story ends.
It was a couple of years ago when I first saw the film adaption of Into the Wild and in complete honesty, I wasn’t sure how I felt about it then. I was a lot younger then and found the story slightly uncomfortable, as it made me question my reality, society, and the purpose of my own life.
But reading the book struck a different cord for me. I didn’t find the story uncomfortable or confronting, but rather it forced me to question my own path and the reason why we travel.
For me, travel is a way to understand the world in which we live, to educate myself based on first hand experiences, and to open my eyes to new sights, sounds, tastes and experiences. This book was a way to understand that on a deeper level, based on McCandless’ unrelenting desire to “live off the land”, belong to nowhere and no one.
I personally don’t relate to Christopher McCandless in many ways, but I did find his story intriguing. As someone who is close with my family and friends and would never close the door to an old life to start a new one, I couldn’t quite wrap my head around his decision making and with so much of the book and public information surrounding McCandless being speculation, I’m not sure I ever will.
The book puzzled me to some degree but I finished it feeling thankful for my own life – the relationships I have with people at home and how I am able to upkeep them whilst travelling. I suppose for me the book described everything I would not like to be: detached, in complete solitude and perhaps even ungrateful (?)
For me solo travel is about the relationships you form for the long term, so in that regard I could relate to Christopher McCandless, who seemed intent with keeping some of the relationships he formed alive (albeit via postcards). But he always kept people at arms length and in contrast for me, I find beauty in vulnerability and opening yourself up to relationships/friendships to let them take their course.
If you lose a person in your life or a friendship turns sour, life goes on. It simply must.
After all, life is not what happens to you, but how you react to it.
Questions for Discussion:
- What are your thoughts about McCandless’ decision to leave his family without warning, despite his close relationship with his sister?
- Do you believe McCandless’ fate was inevitable given his lack of preparation and concern for the reality of the Alaskan wild?
- What do you make of the author’s decision to go to the location where Christopher McCandless passed away?
Sound off in the comments below!
Hopefully see you all next month! We’ll be reading “Lunch in Paris”.