The Stranger in the Woods
The Extraordinary Story of the Last True HermitBook - 2017
A New York Times bestseller
In 1986, a shy and intelligent twenty-year-old named Christopher Knight left his home in Massachusetts, drove to Maine, and disappeared into the forest. He would not have a conversation with another human being until nearly three decades later, when he was arrested for stealing food. Living in a tent even through brutal winters, he had survived by his wits and courage, developing ingenious ways to store edibles and water, and to avoid freezing to death. He broke into nearby cottages for food, clothing, reading material, and other provisions, taking only what he needed but terrifying a community never able to solve the mysterious burglaries. Based on extensive interviews with Knight himself, this is a vividly detailed account of his secluded life--why did he leave? what did he learn?--as well as the challenges he has faced since returning to the world. It is a gripping story of survival that asks fundamental questions about solitude, community, and what makes a good life, and a deeply moving portrait of a man who was determined to live his own way, and succeeded.
From Library Staff
According to Finkel, there are three types of hermits in the world. Christopher Knight doesn't fit any of these categories, however, and the author explores why.
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For introverted lovers of the outdoors, the idea of escaping into the woods alone for weeks can seem like a balm. But, Christopher Knight managed to vanish into the Maine woods for 27 years without a trace, beyond a legend based on the tiny absences he left behind in sustaining himself. Known to some as the North Pond Hermit or The Hungry Man, his thousands of small, self-sustaining thefts unsettled a community for a quarter century while he lived his peace.
This book was my first experience reading nonfiction with an unreliable narrator. The author is a journalist who admits issues in the past with fudging his stories (he merged a number of sources into one voice for narrative benefit in an earlier project and was caught out). He discloses this midway into the book, and it makes you wonder a bit about what liberties he may have taken with Knight's story; among them, the extent to which Knight understood and gave permission for his tale to be told. It's an uncomfortable reading experience, to be sure, but fascinating as well.
Finkel is an outdoorsman himself, and therefore disposed to feel a certain understanding around Knight's choices. His empathy and curiosity drive the story to read like a novel rather than a biography, and leave readers rooting alternately for Knight, his family, the cottagers and the fledgling friendship between Knight and Finkel. All in all, this book makes for a great summer read, particularly if you're at a remote cottage and enjoy a bit creepiness in a book.
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