Book Review: The Stranger in the Woods

Book Review: The Stranger in the WoodsThe Stranger in the Woods: The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit
by Michael Finkel
on March 7th 2017
Published by Books on Tape
Genres: Non-Fiction

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.

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.

My Takeaway 

“Modern life seems set up so that we can avoid loneliness at all costs, but maybe it’s worthwhile to face it occasionally. The further we push aloneness away, the less we are able to cope with it, and the more terrifying it gets.” ​Michael FinkelThe Stranger in the Woods

I am not a huge fan of non-fiction, but I thoroughly enjoyed The Stranger in the Woods: The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit. The book was a Book-of-the-Month selection — the description intrigued me enough to pick it. I read the fascinating story in one sitting (only 191 pages). It took Finkel three years to write this book and I appreciate his detailed and reflective writing. The story might seem unbelievable, but rest assured it is a true story (a lot of fact-checking was done)! The incredible story of Christopher Knight, aka The North Pond Hermit, made national headlines in 2013. Amazingly, there are many hermits throughout the world, but most of them do not isolate themselves for the amount of time Knight did. In the end, Knight was found/discovered because of his stealing. Some residents of North Pond believed he deserved to rot in jail, I am not one of those people. Although what Knight did was dishonest, he never hurt anyone in the process, but I recommend you read the book and come up with your own conclusion.

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