Mama at the Movies: Into the Wild

Edited to add: I try to write the column without giving away anything about the plot for those of you who haven’t seen the film yet!

The guys and I traveled east for Thanksgiving, to my parents’ cozy Connecticut home deep in the woods. I spent the weekend surrounded by family and food — my favorite way to spend a few days. Occasionally my dad organized a work party to move a pile of wood; he cuts and splits the trees that fall in the woods, and we all work like a bucket brigade to move the logs from the woods to various spots on the rough-mowed lawn, and from there to the garage, so that my parents can heat their home all winter. The rest of the time, this time of year, we stay inside reading, writing, cooking, eating, talking talking talking.

So it’s a sharp contrast, indeed, to think about Into the Wild, the film I wrote about for Literary Mama this month. Its subject, Chris McCandless, decided to abandon civilization for a while and trek deep into the Alaskan back country. When I posted a draft of the column to the Literary Mama columnists’ group, it generated a great discussion about “guy” movies and “chick flicks,” and whether men are more likely to head into the wild than women. In my experience, among my friends and my own family, it’s the men who have stayed relatively close to their families and the women who, for various reasons, have moved away. I traveled from New York to California for grad school, met Tony, and never moved back. Hence my cross-country journey to visit my family.

It’s hard for me to imagine my boys ever having an independent life, let alone an independent life cut off from mine, but this movie made me think sadly about that. To distract myself from that line of thought, I focused on the sibling relationship, as depicted in the film and as I see it in my family. I hope that if my boys do ever choose to leave me, that at least they won’t leave each other.

Here’s a blurb from the column:

At home [months after Chris’s disappearance], his parents’ anger softens into pain and [his sister] wonders why he doesn’t get in touch with her; “the weight of Chris’s disappearance,” she says, “had begun to lay down on me full length.” Her words rocked me out of my Alaskan reverie to think about my own family. I’ve got two older brothers living 3,000 miles away. We may not talk every week or even every two, but I know that when I call, they’ll call back. We’ll connect. I thought about Carine McCandless and how I’d feel if one of my brothers just . . . left. Nothing on the surface of my life would look much different, but I’d walk with a persistent ache no doctor could ever heal.

And then my thoughts turned to my boys, young brothers who wriggle like puppies together in the oldest one’s bed each night. I thought about Eli, who from the time he could talk has called Ben “Buh-buh,” for “Brother Ben,” the sharp urgency in his voice now when he calls out “Ben!”, about how bereft he’d be if that call went unanswered one day. I thought about how Ben runs to give Eli a hug before we leave his kindergarten classroom each morning, and then bends down gently to give Eli a kiss on the cheek. I can’t bear to imagine them losing each other. To move into adulthood having lost the shared history and understanding created with a brother or sister would permanently cloud one’s days.

Click on over to Literary Mama to read the rest, and let me know what you think.


  1. Daphne says:

    Oh, I really like this excerpt. I really really want to see this movie, so maybe I should wait to read your full review until I do. My husband and I have been trying to go for the last several weeks but events have conspired against us.

  2. Stacey says:

    I am three quarters of the way through the book so like Daphne, I don’t want to read the full review yet but I’m so glad I read this snippet- it has given me new things to think about as a hurry to finish my reading- it’s our book club book this month and book club is on Wednesday- off to read!!