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- ISBN-13: 9781101875681
- ISBN-10: 1101875682
- Publisher: Knopf Publishing Group
- Publish Date: March 2017
- Page Count: 224
- Dimensions: 8.5 x 6 x 0.9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 0.8 pounds
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2016-10-24
- Reviewer: Staff
On a summer morning in 1986, 20-year-old Christopher Knight didnt show up for his job installing alarm systems in Waltham, Mass. Nearly three decades passed before he reappeared and revealed hed spent most of that time camping in the woods of central Maine. In this fascinating account of Knights renunciation of humanity, Finkel (True Story: Murder, Memoir, Mea Culpa) struggles to comprehend the impulses that led Knight to court death by hypothermia even though his family home was less than an hours drive away. To survive, Knight relentlessly pilfered supplies from vacation houses around his campsite, infuriating and terrifying homeowners and baffling a generation of cops. Finally apprehended during one of his raids, the Hermit of North Pond battled depression and contemplated suicide as he was forced to rejoin society. Drawn by the details that followed Knights arrest, Finkel reached out to him through letters and visits. Despite frequent rebuffs, enough of a relationship developed for Finkel to broadly outline Knights wilderness solitude. A fellow outdoorsman, Finkel places Knight in the long tradition of hermits, a category that has been admired and distrusted over the centuries. Yet even as Finkel immerses himself in Knights liferesearching hermits, consulting psychologists, even camping at Knights hideawayhis subjects motivations remain obscure, leaving the book somehow incomplete. The book doesnt penetrate the mystery of Knights renunciation, but the questions it raises remain deeply compelling. (Mar.)
The secrets of a secluded life
BookPage Nonfiction Top Pick, March 2017
If you’re a fan of Jon Krakauer’s Into the Wild, you might like The Stranger in the Woods even better. Once you start, in fact, you’ll likely have a hard time putting down Michael Finkel’s fascinating new book.
For decades, cottages on North Pond in Central Maine had been broken into, with food, flashlights, clothes, books and many other items stolen. In April 2013 a Maine game warden set a high-tech surveillance trap at a camp that had been repeatedly burglarized. The trap worked, and the mysterious culprit was finally arrested: 47-year-old Christopher Knight.
This “North Pond Hermit” had been living in a carefully camouflaged tent for 27 years, since the spring day in 1986 when the then-20-year-old abruptly left his job with a security company, drove his car into the backwoods of Maine and abandoned it. (Knight’s expertise with alarm systems proved particularly helpful during his more than 1,000 burglaries to stockpile food and supplies.) Even Knight wasn’t exactly sure why he abandoned both his family and society so suddenly, except to say that he felt like a “square peg.”
Finkel, a journalist and author of True Story: Murder, Memoir, Mea Culpa, heard about Knight’s arrest and wrote to the jailed hermit. Surprisingly Knight wrote back. They exchanged several letters, and when Knight stopped writing, Finkel flew from his Montana home to visit the inmate in person.
During the course of their visits, Finkel managed to elicit details about the life of the man he calls the “most solitary known person in all of human history.” Finkel’s account artfully blends the details of Knight’s childhood, how he survived in the woods, his legal proceedings and his eventual uneasy return to society, along with informative descriptions of various hermits throughout history and their motivations.
Well researched and compassionate, The Stranger in the Woods is a thought-provoking account that will make you thankful for your next hot meal and warm bed, especially on a stormy, bone-chilling night.