A New York Times Bestseller "The Wild Truth is an important book on two fronts: It sets the record straight about a story that has touched thousands of readers, and it opens up a conversation about hideous domestic violence hidden behind a mask of prosperity and propriety." NPR.org In the more than twenty years since the body of Chris McCandless was discovered in the wilds of Alaska, his spellbinding story has captivated millions who have either read Jon Krakauer's iconic Into the Wild or seen Sean Penn's acclaimed film of the same name. And yet, only one person has truly understood what motivated Chris's unconventional decision to forsake his belongings, abandon his family, and embrace the harsh wilderness. In The Wild Truth, his beloved sister Carine McCandless finally provides a deeply personal account of the many misconceptions about Chris, revealing the truth behind his fateful journey while sharing the remarkable details of her own. Exposing the dark reality that existed behind the McCandless's seemingly idyllic home in the suburbs of Washington, D.C., Carine details a violent home life, one where both parents manipulated the truth about a second family a deception that pushed Chris over the edge and set the stage for his willing departure into the wild. And though he cut off all family ties, Carine understood through their indelible bond and some cryptic communication what Chris was seeking. This understanding, kept under wraps for years as Carine struggled to maintain a relationship with her parents, now comes to spectacular light in the pages of The Wild Truth. In the decades since Chris's death, Carine and her half-siblings have come together to find their own truth and build their own beauty in his absence. In each other, they've found absolution, just as Chris found absolution in the wild before he died. Beautiful and haunting, told with candor and heartbreaking insight, The Wild Truth presents a man the world only thought they knew and the sister who has finally found redemption in sharing the rest of their story."
- ISBN-13: 9780062325143
- ISBN-10: 0062325140
- Publisher: HarperOne
- Publish Date: November 2014
- Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.1 x 1.3 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
- Page Count: 304
A sister speaks out
A few years ago, I taught Jon Krakauer’s Into the Wild in a college freshman writing class. I thought the story of Chris McCandless, who turned his back on civilization to hike into the Alaskan wilderness, would resonate with undergraduates. Chris’ tragic journey may have ended with his death, but his quest for purity and adventure was inspirational. Or so I thought.
Apart from one lone hippie idealist, the other students condemned Chris for his selfishness: How could he turn his back on his parents after all they had done for him? As it turns out, many other readers felt the same way. But they didn’t know the whole story of the violent dysfunction that Chris was escaping in his bid for freedom. Now his sister, Carine McCandless, has written a brave and sensitive memoir that fills in the gaps.
In The Wild Truth, Carine depicts their father, Walt, as a violent, controlling abuser. While still married to his first wife, Marcia, he began an affair with Chris and Carine’s mother, Billie. Marcia had six children, and Billie had two—Chris and Carine were technically illegitimate. None of this was explained to Chris and Carine as children, though they spent time with their half-siblings.
But their father’s violence and their mother’s denial of it were perfectly clear. Although Chris tried to protect his little sister, there was no denying the level of physical, emotional and verbal abuse and manipulation in the house. Carine’s description of this dynamic is even-handed and the more horrific for it. And the manipulation continued after Chris’ death in the way Billie and Walt handled his revenue-generating afterlife.
Carine, writing with the full support of her siblings and Krakauer, has succeeded in bringing grace and truth back to her brother’s story.