A lot of people came away from reading Into the Wild without grasping why Chris did what he did. Lacking explicit facts, they concluded that he was merely self-absorbed, unforgivably cruel to his parents, mentally ill, suicidal, and/or witless.
Foreword to The Wild Truth
Into the Wild is an amazing book about an idiot who starved to death in Alaska. Yeah, I’m one of those people that read Into The Wild and had no sympathy for Chris and his mindless vision quest/walkabout. It was a gripping book, but I had the feeling that Chris was a kid with a death wish from the very beginning.
Chris’s sister, Carine, didn’t like that people had this image of her brother, so she decided to bang out an autobiographical memoir that has so little to do with Chris I’m not sure how she thought this would help explain his actions to anyone. In a nutshell, Carine tells how she didn’t have perfect parents, didn’t have a perfect marriage, and how she misses her dead brother. The Wild Truth is filled with such riveting details as what her parents’ old house looks like and how she has to put up with sexism as a woman running an auto parts store.
The Big Reveal is about how her parents suck, to which I have to say, welcome to Earth kiddo. Carine’s story is one that is shared by about 7 billion other people who didn’t have the good fortune to have a slightly nutty brother wander off into the wilderness and die. While her life story is meaningful to her, and might or might not have been meaningful to her brother Chris, it is less than meaningful to me.
And that’s the problem here, her choice of The Wild Truth as a title is a broken promise. This book isn’t about Chris and why he wandered around for years and ended up dead in Alaska. It’s about her own small life, small problems, and her doing what she can to stretch out the 15 Minutes of Fame she got from Chris’s death.
Her story might have been a good book, if she were as good a writer as Jon Krakauer or Augusten Burroughs or David Sedaris, but she isn’t a great writer. Her tales of family drama are completely lacking in drama. Her efforts to wedge herself into Chris’s story feel forced and hollow. Chris had cut her out of his life as much as he had cut out the rest of his family, and ultimately, the world. He died a stranger, and she is never willing to admit that. Chris is forced into her narrative from time to time, as she kind of half heartedly tries to make her life story relevant to his life story. It doesn’t work.
In the end, this is like a reality show about Kim Kardashian’s bashful second cousin who tells you every chance he gets that he’s Kim Kardashian’s second cousin.
Yeah, you’re Chris’s sister. Uh, so what?