Krakauer follows this section with a long discussion of a trip McCandless took to explore the roots of his childhood after high school. The narrative of his trip seems to mirror the investigations undertaken by Krakauer himself, in that McCandless went to old family friends in search of the answer to a mystery related to his family’s past. The revelation that Walt McCandless practiced a form of de facto bigamy by remaining involved with his first wife after he moved in with Christopher’s mother therefore strikes Christopher and the reader at the same time. This maximizes the impact of the information on the reader, not least because Krakauer believes this trauma was crucial in precipitating McCandless’s decision to leave his family behind.

In Chapter 13, Krakauer details Carine McCandless’s character, asserts it as highly significance to McCandless’s psychology and the reader’s understanding of his life. Her introduction implicitly argues against the idea that the McCandless family secret was sufficient to justify the damage Christopher does to his family with his decision to journey into the wild. By detailing her lifestyle and her dreams of becoming a millionaire early in life, Krakauer establishes Carine as a foil to her brother’s character, suggesting that she could be considered a version of an emotionally stable Christopher, one who hadn’t been as damaged by their father’s secret-keeping. Krakauer’s detailed description of Carine’s violent grief at learning of her brother’s death and her weeping during their interview underscores the damage done to McCandless’s loved ones by his apparent inability to consider the consequences of his recklessness. Her insistence that she does not understand why her brother chose to leave also prevents the reader from giving in to a too-ready sympathy for him or forming a too-simple explanation of his psychological motivations.