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.
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.
by Kirkus Review,
“A journalist’s gripping account of a modern fundamentalist Christian pioneer family and the dark secrets that held it together….Provocative and disturbing.”
by Jon Krakauer, author of Into the Wild and Under the Banner of Heaven,
“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.”
by Ken Burns, filmmaker, The Civil War and The National Parks: America's Best Idea,
"This is a riveting, mesmerizing story, stunning and eloquent all at the same time. I simply couldn't put it down."
by David Maraniss, author of When Pride Still Mattered and They Marched into Sunlight,
“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.”
by Bill McKibben, author of Eaarth and Deep Economy,
“What an epic story — sociopathy and crazy ideology hits the final frontier. Jon Krakauer couldn’t have done it any better.”
by Edward Hoagland, author of Children Are Diamonds,
“Pilgrim’s Wilderness is a fine book, methodically narrating a tale of libertarianism gone haywire on a genuine frontier.”
by Blaine Harden, author of Escape from Camp 14,
“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.”
by Douglas Brinkley, author of The Quiet World,
“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.”
by Zev Chafets, author of Cooperstown Confidential and A Match Made in Heaven,
“There isn't a bad sentence in Pilgrim’s Wilderness, not a dull page or sour note. A masterpiece of reporting and storytelling.”
by David Roberts, author of Alone on the Ice,
“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.”
by Tom Bodett, author of Williwaw! and The End of the Road,
“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.”
by Nancy Lord, former Alaska Writer Laureate and author of Fish Camp, Beluga Days and Early Warming,
“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.”
by Carl Pope, former executive director of The Sierra Club and author of Strategic Ignorance,
“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.”
by James Risser, two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize for national reporting,
“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.”
by Daniel Coyle,author of The Secret Race and The Talent Code,
"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."
by Publishers Weekly,
“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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