The Stranger in the Woods|Finkel, Michael
The Stranger in the Woods
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Many people dream of escaping modern life, but most will never act on it. This is the remarkable true story of a man who lived alone in the woods of Maine for 27 years, making this dream a reality--not out of anger at the world, but simply because he preferred to live on his own.

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.


  • ISBN-13: 9781101875681
  • ISBN-10: 1101875682
  • Publisher: American Book Company
  • Publish Date: March 2019

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.


This article was originally published in the March 2017 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.