Summary and Analysis
Chapter 13 - Virginia Beach
In this chapter, Krakauer interviews Carine McCandless, Chris's younger sister and, until he graduated from college, his confidante. Ten months after her brother's death, Carine can't get through a day without crying about her brother. Carine and her husband were notified of Chris's death shortly after his body was discovered in the Sushana River bus. They traveled to Alaska to bring home Chris's ashes, in Carine's knapsack. Chris's mother, Billie, is in shock over her son's death " . . . weeping as only a mother who has outlived a child can weep, betraying a sense of loss so huge and irreparable that the mind balks at taking its measure."
During the plane ride home with Chris's remains, his sister Carine eats "every scrap of food the cabin attendants set in front of her." Soon afterward, however, she discovers she has no appetite and loses so much weight that friends think she has become anorectic. Chris's mother also stops eating, losing eight pounds. His father, Walt, responds the opposite way, putting on eight pounds.
Though both compulsive eating and loss of appetite are not uncommon responses to stress and grief, it is hard not to see the McCandless family's food-related behaviors as connected to Chris's demise. It is as if Billie and Carine are identifying with him, feeling Chris's pain, while Walt is compensating for what killed his son — though none of them are doing what they do intentionally, or even consciously.