“The Wild Truth”: One Family’s Secrets & Lies

The elder McCandless [Chris] perished in 1992, but his sister fills in holes where Into the Wild author Jon Krakauer could not, specifically centering on the family history of abuse and deception that drove her brother to sever ties in the first place. It has been a long time coming: ‘I felt like I was doing a disservice not just to Chris and his memory but a disservice to all of the people who seek inspiration from [him],’ McCandless recently told me in an interview. The Wild Truth is a moving narrative of domestic abuse, grief and survival, and for the perspective and revelations it contains, an essential addition to the Into the Wild story. Zach Schonfeld‘s review of The Wild Truth in Newsweek

If you never read The Wild Truth you may have seen the film Into the Wild (2007), about Chris McCandless, who in his early 20’s died alone in an abandoned bus in Alaska about two years after leaving everyone and just about everything behind to start a cross-country journey.

And maybe you’ve wondered what possessed Chris to go out on his own in the first place.

Last year Chris’s sister Carine McCandless finally clued us in with her book The Wild Truth.

ABC News: Chris’s “expedition was not just about his love of nature and his adventurous spirit, but also reflected his intent to sever ties with his parents after what [Carine] calls a traumatic childhood.” Letters he’d written to Carine indicated, in fact, his desire to divorce his parents forever.

Part of Carine’s decision to write the story lay in her frustration with their parents’ skewed version of events, a common dynamic in many families with big secrets. As Jane Isay says in Secrets and Lies (2014), If you need to keep a big secret, here’s a tip: Invent an alternate story to tell, and tell it so often that you believe it yourself.

Psychiatrist Susan C. Vaughan on Isay’s book: “Whether we are Finders or Keepers of secrets (or both), Jane Isay vividly shows how secrets and lies render the very fabric of our lives shot through with a corrupting thread of untruth. To move ahead, she argues, we must unravel these tangled threads and rework the tapestry of our inner worlds and intimate relationships that dishonesty and dissembling has distorted…”

Family therapist Ron Taffel: .”..(I)f you or someone you know needs to be encouraged to take that bravest of steps toward the truth, get this page-turning book. Jane Isay is a gifted story teller with the soul of a poet and the wisdom of a master teacher. Secrets and Lies is not only about betrayal, it is about courage, the kind all of us need to negotiate the hidden currents and sudden riptides of life.”

Selected Reviews of The Wild Truth

Pamela Schmid, Washington Independent Review of Books: “A sister strives to correct her brother’s story, but finds you can never define the whole truth for someone.”

Publishers Weekly: “In the end, this is Carine’s story. She honestly shares her successes and failures in work and relationships as she comes to the realization that she has tried to find in adult life what was lacking in her childhood: worth, strength, and unconditional love.”

Nick Romeo, Boston Globe: “The result is a moving and revelatory saga.”

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