The Wild Truth: A Memoir

The Wild Truth:  A Memoir, is Carine McCandless’s story, sister of Christopher McCandless, whose story was told by Jon Krakauer and later portrayed on film by director Sean Penn and actor Emile Hirsch.  Like many I was enchanted and intrigued by Chris, and also like many I’ve seen him as both a heroic, idealist free spirit who sloughed off conventional society and a selfish, woefully unprepared and possibly unstable child who abandoned his loved ones and caused a path of heartbreak in his wake.  Their is no ambiguity for Carine, understandably, who throughout her memoir has nothing but reverence for her brother, her child’s namesake, at one point referencing him as compared to Christ.  A reference that is only strengthened by Carine’s clear religiosity.

Carine’s narrative does shed some light on Chris’s escape, she describes a household parented by monsters as opposed to the merely cold household hinted at in the previous portrayals.  Carine’s description of her parents, father in particular, are so vile it’s almost a caricature of evil, and while objectively speaking this is only her word, it seems just too dark to invent, at least in my opinion.  For me this lends further motivation for Chris, but also perhaps more selfishness, leaving several younger siblings to deal with this abuse.  But aside from providing this more accurate (according to Carine) backstory for Chris, this really is Carine’s story, and this is where the memoir will fall apart for some readers.  Carine’s story is no doubt important and heart-wrenching, but it’s redundant, and delves too deeply into too many side narratives.  You will follow Carine through several failed relationships and marriages and continual physical, emotional and mental abuse from parents who just shockingly haven’t been cut out from her life, and that of her children’s lives altogether.  But this is only my perspective as an adult who came from a generally warm, non abusive household, who admittedly has never had to deal with this kind of abuse and toxicity from loved ones.  Not to mention likely PTSD and survivor’s guilt and a slew of other emotional and mental problems someone in this situation might develop.

I listened to this memoir and it was read by Carine herself with utmost sincerity.  I often note the length of audiobooks more specifically than the length of written books.  There is an element of getting my money’s worth, and also just one of wanting to spend sufficient time with the narrator, as memoirs and biographies are pleasing to be heard when narrated by the authors especially.  But as the chapters continued on I found myself drifting and losing interest.  Point being, and in complete respect to Carine, who I do tend to believe, this really is for absolute McCandless family completists.