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Pilgrim's Wilderness: A True Story of Faith and Madness on the Alaska Frontier

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Pilgrim's Wilderness: A True Story of Faith and Madness on the Alaska Frontier Cover

ISBN13: 9780307587824
ISBN10: 0307587827
Condition: Standard
Dustjacket: Standard
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Awards

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

Into the Wild meets Helter Skelter in this riveting true story of a modern-day homesteading family in the deepest reaches of the Alaskan wilderness — and of the chilling secrets of its maniacal, spellbinding patriarch.

When Papa Pilgrim appeared in the Alaska frontier outpost of McCarthy with his wife and fifteen children in tow, his new neighbors had little idea of the trouble they were in for. The Pilgrim Family presented themselves as a shining example of the homespun Christian ideal, with their proud piety and beautiful old-timey musicianship, but their true story ran dark and deep. Within weeks, Papa had bulldozed a road through the mountains to the new family home at an abandoned copper mine, sparking a tense confrontation with the National Park Service and forcing his ghost town neighbors to take sides in an ever-more volatile battle over where a citizen’s rights end and the government’s power begins.

In Pilgrim’s Wilderness, veteran Alaska journalist Tom Kizzia unfolds the remarkable, at times harrowing, story of a charismatic spinner of American myths who was not what he seemed, the townspeople caught in his thrall, and the family he brought to the brink of ruin. As Kizzia discovered, Papa Pilgrim was in fact the son of a rich Texas family with ties to Hoover’s FBI and strange, oblique connections to the Kennedy assassination and the movie stars of Easy Rider. And as his fight with the government in Alaska grew more intense, the turmoil in his brood made it increasingly difficult to tell whether his sons and daughters were messianic followers or helpless hostages in desperate need of rescue. In this powerful piece of Americana, written with uncommon grace and high drama, Kizzia uses his unparalleled access to capture an era-defining clash between environmentalists and pioneers ignited by a mesmerizing sociopath who held a town and a family captive.

Review:

“A journalist’s gripping account of a modern fundamentalist Christian pioneer family and the dark secrets that held it together….Provocative and disturbing.” Kirkus Review

Review:

“The riveting story of a megalomaniacal sociopath who left a trail of woe from Texas to the Great White North, Pilgrim’s Wilderness lends credence to the maxim that the unadulterated truth, when conveyed with sufficient skill, is not only more illuminating than fiction, but also more entertaining. Tom Kizzia has written an uncommonly insightful book about post-frontier Alaska, an ambitious literary work disguised as a page-turner, very much in the tradition of Edward Hoagland’s Notes From the Century Before and John McPhee’s Coming into the Country.” Jon Krakauer, author of Into the Wild and Under the Banner of Heaven

Review:

"This is a riveting, mesmerizing story, stunning and eloquent all at the same time. I simply couldn't put it down." Ken Burns, filmmaker, The Civil War and The National Parks: America's Best Idea

Review:

“Tom Kizzia's superb book is startling, unpredictable, haunting, clear-eyed, unrelenting, sad, and beautiful.  Pilgrim's Wilderness, in other words, is like Alaska itself, a subject the author understands deeply and evokes with uncommon skill.” David Maraniss, author of When Pride Still Mattered and They Marched into Sunlight

Review:

“What an epic story — sociopathy and crazy ideology hits the final frontier. Jon Krakauer couldn’t have done it any better.” Bill McKibben, author of Eaarth and Deep Economy

Review:

Pilgrim’s Wilderness is a fine book, methodically narrating a tale of libertarianism gone haywire on a genuine frontier.” Edward Hoagland, author of Children Are Diamonds

Review:

Pilgrim’s Wilderness is a terrifying masterpiece, elegantly written, painstakingly researched, and impossible to put down. Tom Kizzia has created a classic American Gothic, chilling, irresistible and wise.” Blaine Harden, author of Escape from Camp 14

Review:

“Tom Kizzia’s Pilgrim’s Wilderness is a bizarre and twisted Alaska saga of mythic proportions. This nonfiction gem has ‘Hollywood hit’ written all over it. Once you start reading, you won’t be able to put it down.” Douglas Brinkley, author of The Quiet World

Review:

“There isn't a bad sentence in Pilgrim’s Wilderness, not a dull page or sour note. A masterpiece of reporting and storytelling.” Zev Chafets, author of Cooperstown Confidential and A Match Made in Heaven

Review:

“The bizarre and tragic true story that unfolds in the pages of this extraordinary book is like nothing else I have ever read. Through prodigious research, blending compassion with investigative skill, Tom Kizzia has woven a mythic tale out of that most mythic of American landscapes — Alaska.” David Roberts, author of Alone on the Ice

Review:

“Tom Kizzia hasn't just observed and written about Alaska for three-plus decades, he's lived it. Pilgrim's Wilderness is a story that needed to be told by the only man who could tell it.” Tom Bodett, author of Williwaw! and The End of the Road

Review:

“Alaska as a land of self-invention and frontier contradictions has never been better captured than in Pilgrim’s Wilderness. Tom Kizzia, ‘Neighbor Tom’ to the enigmatic figure at the center of this riveting story, combines an insider’s view with thorough and compassionate investigative reporting. This fascinating, harrowing, ultimately redemptive, and beautifully written account is sure to become a classic.” Nancy Lord, former Alaska Writer Laureate and author of Fish Camp, Beluga Days and Early Warming

Review:

“In Pilgrim's Wilderness Tom Kizzia uncovers the tragic confrontation between America's frontier past and its settled future. 'The Last Frontier' is the hot bed and Alaskans probably the most divided and conflicted of all. Mix this with the attraction that frontiers have for the unstable, darker forces in the human personality and we get the startling case of Papa Pilgrim and his family, as well as a hell of a yarn.” Carl Pope, former executive director of The Sierra Club and author of Strategic Ignorance

Review:

“A stunning and downright scary tale by one of Alaska's most knowledgeable journalists. Tom Kizzia's investigative talents and his love of America's frontier state come through clearly in this true story that reads like a novel.” James Risser, two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize for national reporting

Review:

"Pilgrim’s Wilderness is not a book — it’s a powerful magnet, and once you begin you will not be able to pull yourself away. This spellbinding, shocking, and, yes, inspirational story of a family’s journey into the heart of darkness delivers the raw power and revelatory truth of a Scorcese film. Except better, because every word is true." Daniel Coyle,author of The Secret Race and The Talent Code

Review:

“Sends readers on a roller-coaster ride that is as thrilling as it is shocking. Kizzia’s work is a testament to both the cruelty and resiliency of the human spirit, capturing the sort of life-and-death struggle that can only occur on the fringes of modern-day civilization.” Publishers Weekly

About the Author

Tom Kizzia has traveled widely in rural Alaska for the Anchorage Daily News, and his work has appeared in the Washington Post and been featured on CNN. His first book, The Wake of the Unseen Object, was named one of the best all-time nonfiction books about Alaska by the state’s historical society. He lives in Homer, Alaska.

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 2 comments:

Beverly B, January 20, 2014 (view all comments by Beverly B)
Pilgrim's Wilderness is almost too harrowing to be a true story. The descriptions and photos of the Alaskan wilderness are beautiful, powerful and lonely. Papa Pilgrim is about as anti-social as anyone can get. He moved his family to Alaska to get away from neighbors, government officials and extended family. Internal alarms among the town's residents should have been deafening when Papa and his huge family moved to a tiny town far far from anywhere in Alaska. Papa Pilgrim was paranoid, confrontational, dishonest and violent, but townspeople mostly shrugged their shoulders or looked the other way. Author, Tom Kizzia, shows all points of view and pays careful attention to showing all parts of the characters personalities. It would have been easy to create one dimensional "good guy vs bad guy" personalities. The events are chilling. The reader knows early on that things will not end well. Papa Pilgrim might have found his isolated utopia, if he hadn't decided to battle the U.S. Park Service. Luckily for his children, their father's decision to declare war on the park service probably saved their lives.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
cek, October 9, 2013 (view all comments by cek)
This is a great read with a local angle. Tom Kizzia gradually reveals the man at the center of Pilgrim's Wilderness as a troubled youth, then a young husband stricken by tragedy, then a wandering hippie, and finally as a liar, thief, and worse. He called himself "Papa Pilgrim" and his wife "Country Rose," and they first met met at an Oregon commune. In 2004, he came to the Portland area seeking money and support for his legal battle with the National Park Service.

This book is also a perceptive examination of Alaskans' evolving attitudes toward Federal management of the land, and of the reciprocal evolution of the attitudes of the Federal government.

But mostly it is a riveting tale of a family and the man who dominated it for almost thirty years.
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780307587824
Subtitle:
A True Story of Faith and Madness on the Alaska Frontier
Author:
Kizzia, Tom
Publisher:
Crown
Subject:
General True Crime
Subject:
Biography - General
Publication Date:
20130716
Binding:
Hardback
Language:
English
Illustrations:
1 MAP, BandW PHOTOS
Pages:
336
Dimensions:
9.54 x 6.6 x 1.18 in 1.24 lb

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Pilgrim's Wilderness: A True Story of Faith and Madness on the Alaska Frontier Used Hardcover
0 stars - 0 reviews
$14.95 In Stock
Product details 336 pages Crown Publishing Group (NY) - English 9780307587824 Reviews:
"Review" by , “A journalist’s gripping account of a modern fundamentalist Christian pioneer family and the dark secrets that held it together….Provocative and disturbing.”
"Review" by , “The riveting story of a megalomaniacal sociopath who left a trail of woe from Texas to the Great White North, Pilgrim’s Wilderness lends credence to the maxim that the unadulterated truth, when conveyed with sufficient skill, is not only more illuminating than fiction, but also more entertaining. Tom Kizzia has written an uncommonly insightful book about post-frontier Alaska, an ambitious literary work disguised as a page-turner, very much in the tradition of Edward Hoagland’s Notes From the Century Before and John McPhee’s Coming into the Country.”
"Review" by , "This is a riveting, mesmerizing story, stunning and eloquent all at the same time. I simply couldn't put it down."
"Review" by , “Tom Kizzia's superb book is startling, unpredictable, haunting, clear-eyed, unrelenting, sad, and beautiful.  Pilgrim's Wilderness, in other words, is like Alaska itself, a subject the author understands deeply and evokes with uncommon skill.”
"Review" by , “What an epic story — sociopathy and crazy ideology hits the final frontier. Jon Krakauer couldn’t have done it any better.”
"Review" by , Pilgrim’s Wilderness is a fine book, methodically narrating a tale of libertarianism gone haywire on a genuine frontier.”
"Review" by , Pilgrim’s Wilderness is a terrifying masterpiece, elegantly written, painstakingly researched, and impossible to put down. Tom Kizzia has created a classic American Gothic, chilling, irresistible and wise.”
"Review" by , “Tom Kizzia’s Pilgrim’s Wilderness is a bizarre and twisted Alaska saga of mythic proportions. This nonfiction gem has ‘Hollywood hit’ written all over it. Once you start reading, you won’t be able to put it down.”
"Review" by , “There isn't a bad sentence in Pilgrim’s Wilderness, not a dull page or sour note. A masterpiece of reporting and storytelling.”
"Review" by , “The bizarre and tragic true story that unfolds in the pages of this extraordinary book is like nothing else I have ever read. Through prodigious research, blending compassion with investigative skill, Tom Kizzia has woven a mythic tale out of that most mythic of American landscapes — Alaska.”
"Review" by , “Tom Kizzia hasn't just observed and written about Alaska for three-plus decades, he's lived it. Pilgrim's Wilderness is a story that needed to be told by the only man who could tell it.”
"Review" by , “Alaska as a land of self-invention and frontier contradictions has never been better captured than in Pilgrim’s Wilderness. Tom Kizzia, ‘Neighbor Tom’ to the enigmatic figure at the center of this riveting story, combines an insider’s view with thorough and compassionate investigative reporting. This fascinating, harrowing, ultimately redemptive, and beautifully written account is sure to become a classic.”
"Review" by , “In Pilgrim's Wilderness Tom Kizzia uncovers the tragic confrontation between America's frontier past and its settled future. 'The Last Frontier' is the hot bed and Alaskans probably the most divided and conflicted of all. Mix this with the attraction that frontiers have for the unstable, darker forces in the human personality and we get the startling case of Papa Pilgrim and his family, as well as a hell of a yarn.”
"Review" by , “A stunning and downright scary tale by one of Alaska's most knowledgeable journalists. Tom Kizzia's investigative talents and his love of America's frontier state come through clearly in this true story that reads like a novel.”
"Review" by , "Pilgrim’s Wilderness is not a book — it’s a powerful magnet, and once you begin you will not be able to pull yourself away. This spellbinding, shocking, and, yes, inspirational story of a family’s journey into the heart of darkness delivers the raw power and revelatory truth of a Scorcese film. Except better, because every word is true."
"Review" by , “Sends readers on a roller-coaster ride that is as thrilling as it is shocking. Kizzia’s work is a testament to both the cruelty and resiliency of the human spirit, capturing the sort of life-and-death struggle that can only occur on the fringes of modern-day civilization.”
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