The intended audience for Finding Everett Ruess: The Remarkable Life and Unsolved Disappearance of a Legendary Wilderness Explorer is obviously the same fervent group of people who so loved Into the Wild. It was obvious to me immediately based on the topic, and was confirmed when I realized that the Foreward was written by none other than Jon Krakauer himself.
I did read Into the Wild and I did enjoy it, despite really thinking that the guy who went off into the wild was kind of a jackass. In Finding Everett Ruess, I also thought the guy was a jackass and yet this time, I was never pulled into the story.
Part of the problem was with the story itself. Basically, in the middle of the Depression this teenage kid decides he needs to go ‘live off the land’, except that really he just wanders around, writes shitty journal entries about ‘Indians’ and then begs his parents to send him money, even though they are teetering on the edge of bankruptcy.
The other part of the problem is that it felt as though the author really wanted to use absolutely every bit of information he uncovered. I appreciate that the author did a ton of research and clearly knows his stuff. However, when he’s trying to make a simple point I don’t need him giving me four examples of Everett’s journal writings or letters to back it up. One will suffice, unless each one reveals something new or contradicts the others. That was not typically the case.
All that said, I didn’t hate this book. The author did a good job of stepping back and letting Everett’s surviving letters and journals tell the story. Mr. Roberts laid out varying opinions about Everett and mostly stayed out of the way of letting the reader decide which ones made the most sense.
The last ¼ of this book was much more interesting and engaging than the first ¾. While the rest of the book covered so much of the same ground multiple times, the last ¼ was concise, revelatory and had a certain tension that the first ¾ lacked.
Overall, I would highly recommend this book to someone who’s interested in these sort of wanderers or unsolved mysteries. However, this book lacks the broad appeal that made Into the Wild such a success.
P.S. Per FTC guidelines, I hereby inform you that I received a free review copy from the publisher.