“That’s the purity of nature. It may be harsh in its honesty, but it never lies to you.” – The Wild Truth
Carine McCandless is the younger sister to Christopher McCandless, the subject of the critically acclaimed book and film, Into the Wild. After college, Chris set out for Alaska where he tragically died after living off of the land for over 100 days; his shelter was an abandoned school bus and he ate what he killed or picked in the Alaskan wilderness. Author Jon Krakauer made Chris famous, but at the request of Carine, part of Chris’s story was never shared in the media until now.
In The Wild Truth Carine tells the story of her childhood and what it was like to grow up with two abusive parents; she gives the background that fans of Into the Wild have been missing all these years, and she shares the alleged reasons Chris abandoned his upper middle class family to begin with.
In her book, Carine shares her memories of life in a suburb of Washington, D.C. The church-going family looked fairly perfect on the outside: two smart kids, a highly intelligent father, and a loyal and devoted mother. No one knew that Carine and Chris were the product of an affair between a married man with a family and his younger assistant. For a long time, even Chris and Carine didn’t understand why a few of their half-siblings from Walt’s former marriage were their age or younger.
Walt and Billie McCandless presented themselves as a perfect partnership with a successful business and a loving family; they didn’t share their verbally and physically abusive ways with anyone outside of the home. Their choices and continuously narcissistic behavior became the foundation for the life choices of both Chris and Carine McCandless as they grow up and choose their own paths.
After finishing The Wild Truth I had to take some time to collect my thoughts. I believe that Carine’s story is true and I believe that she tried to share her recollections without resentment, I’m not sure she succeeded however.
The book begins exactly as it was marketed, as a story about Carine and Chris growing up in a less than ideal environment, all told from Carine’s point of view. It wasn’t until Carine started in on the details of Chris leaving for college that I understood this book was going to be a lot less about Chris and a lot more about Carine. Because the book is written by Carine, this is somewhat expected, but throughout the book, Carine explains that she is sharing solely because she is tired of Into the Wild fans believing Chris was cruel to leave his loving family behind. Her reasoning is misleading; yes, the book stems from her need to tell the truth, but not about her brother, it is the need to tell the truth about about her own life.
I do not believe Carine to be a liar and it is entirely possible that her parents are cruel – despite what she writes about her motives, the book feels like a calculated attack against her parents. The book felt like a one sided account, as if Carine was making tiny alterations and omissions to appear guiltless, thereby striping the story of any objectivity.
Aside from the fact that I felt the book was a little biased, Carine’s story is one that many readers will easily identify with. Carine has endured numerous personal tragedies and she still seems to move forward, optimistic about the future and keeping those she considers her family close. She is a woman who has been knocked down and continues to get up time and time again, only to become stronger and more independent as a result.