I went to sleep last night thinking about this book, and woke up still thinking about it. It is the excruciatingly sad story about a young man on a quest to be totally alone in the wilderness of Alaska. The book traces his childhood, his family relationships, the growing dissatisfaction with living a “normal” life, and his obsession with Jack London’s books and living in the wild. Out of duty, he finished college, then quietly gave away his remaining money and left town. He told no one he was going, and changed his name from Christopher McCandless to Alexander Supertramp.
Alex drifted around the Southwest for awhile, occasionally staying in one place long enough to pick up some work. Along the way, there were many people that said what a nice, thoughtful young man he was. He was honest and hard-working, but had some strange ideas. Some dismissed Alex’s talk of living in the wild as a dream he would never act on. Others realized he was dead serious, and tried to give him better survival supplies and money. Many urged him to call his family and let them know he was alive and okay, but Alex/Chris refused.
The story of Chris’ life, pieced together from journal notes and interviews with people that spent time with him along the way to Alaska, is puzzling. He seemed to be intelligent, yet he was inadequately dressed and supplied, and barely knew how to hunt. No compass, no map, no cell phone with solar recharger to call for help. What was he thinking?! At first he had a car, but when that got died, he just got out and started hitchhiking.
Chris McCandless got to live his dream for a short time, but at what a cost. He died alone inside an old abandoned, rusting bus of starvation and eating the wrong kind of root. Alone. In his last journal entry, he reverts to his real name, indicating that he was finally thinking of his family back home and wishing for rescue. But it was too late. A moose hunter found his decomposing body and notified the authorities.
The McCandless family was forever changed. I imagine that the father still grieves the missed opportunity to make things right with his son. The sister undoubtedly grieves the future times of being together that will never happen. And his mother will never get to wrap her arms around her precious son again, and tell him how much she loves him, even though she didn’t understand him.