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Arbutus Library hosts 'The Wild Truth' author

Carine McCandless, sister of Chris McCandless, whose journey of solitude through the wilderness in Alaska was depicted in Jon Krakauer's novel "Into the Wild", will discuss her recently published book, "The Wild Truth" Saturday afternoon in Arbutus.

She will hold a book signing and discussion at the Arbutus branch of the Baltimore County Public Library on Saturday, Dec. 6 at 2 p.m.

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"We're very excited," said Erin Oh, assistant branch manager at the Arbutus Library. "This is the first time we've had a celebrity author."

Oh said the library at 855 Sulphur Spring Road has hosted children's book authors in the past, but this is the first adult author.

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"I'm hoping for a large crowd," said Robert Maranto, branch manager of the library, who said he has been reading the book. "It's a very interesting read and a great follow up to Jon Krakauer's book."

The branch was chosen from among the 19 in the county because it was large enough to accommodate the event and had adequate parking, said Robert Hughes, a county library spokesman.

"It is a relatively new branch, built in 2010, and we wanted to draw attention to it," Hughes said. "Larger events have been held at other branches in the past. It is a beautiful [library] and we want the surrounding area to have a look at it."

"The Wild Truth" was released Nov. 11. Since then, McCandless has traveled across the country holding similar events. This is the first in the Baltimore region.

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"They've all been very successful and they give me a lot of hope that the lessons and the messages I want to come through in this book are truly coming through," McCandless said. "Each event I've had, I've had incredibly emotional experiences."

Her book is a follow up to Krakauer's bestseller, "Into the Wild", that detailed Chris' adventures and eventual death in Alaska in 1992. The story was adapted into the film, "Into the Wild" in 1997, directed by Sean Penn.

"I'm able to give a personal insight that goes beyond the literary legend that he has become and I think people learn more from humans than they do from iconic, mythological figures," McCandless said, from Denver, where she was spending the holidays with her family.

Her brother's journey ended in an abandoned bus where he starved to death.

"There are a lot of misconceptions about Chris because of the blanks that are left in Jon's book, which was my fault," McCandless said. "I didn't want Jon to tell the rest of his story."

Information about Chris's tumultuous childhood and family life was left out of the book in order to minimize harm to his family members, according to the foreword in McCandless' book written by Krakauer.

"Unfortunately, after 20 years I've realized what a disservice I was doing, keeping lessons from...all these people across the world inspired by Chris' story," said McCandless, who lives in Virginia Beach.

McCandless tells her brother's story to bridge those gaps in Krakauer's book.

"The greatest inspiration comes from truth, and Chris taught me that," McCandless said.

McCandless said her goal with the book and the appearances is to "start a new conversation about domestic violence."

"Domestic violence still exists behind closed doors so often and I want...people to know it's OK to talk about and seek help for," McCandless said.

Both she and her brother were the product of the extra-marital affair between Walt McCandless and the then-Billie Johnson, she said. Walt had six other children with his first wife, Marcia.

The affair continued, as Walt had children with both women, before eventually marrying Billie, McCandless said.

"As we grew up, Chris and I spent time with our other brothers and sisters. But we were young children and didn't understand that our mother Billie was Walt's mistress," McCandless said.

Both households suffered domestic abuse, which impacted the lives of everyone in their family, McCandless said.

"My parents are human and they made mistakes," McCandless said. "My book doesn't focus on the fact that Walt and Billie made these mistakes, but how they impacted Chris."

She discusses her relationship with Chris, her close relationship with her six other siblings and their mother, her successes and failures, becoming a mother and working with students.

"I cover a lot of ground in the book — it doesn't just cover our childhood," McCandless said. "It's not just a book focusing on the sadness — it's a sibling survival story."

McCandless said she hopes those who read the novel are "empowered with the knowledge that everything that happens in life, both good and bad, is an opportunity to take control and begin again."

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