What if you felt detached from this world? What if you felt uncomfortable, anxious, overwhelmed? Michael Finkel's gripping The Stranger in the Woods tells the story of Christopher Knight, a young man born and raised in Maine, not long out of high school, who one day parks his car at the edge of the woods, walks in, and never walks out. For 28 years, Knight lives alone in the forest, doing everything he can to keep himself alive — fighting starvation, discovery, danger, and frigid Maine winters — everything except paying for the desperately needed items that he steals.
Finkel's quest to understand this loner is met with some resistance, but he perseveres. Why would a young man with a car, a job, and a loving family — just finally on the very brink of his own life — willingly disappear? Digging deeper into the personality, mental health, and philosophy of the "North Pond Hermit," Finkel uncovers what I can only imagine he never anticipated. Wrestling with big questions about society, autonomy, poverty, mental illness, solitude, conformity, privacy, and the very foundation of human nature, Finkel produces a nail-biter of a story that is impossible to put down. And, while Finkel's story is astounding, Knight's character is even more intriguing. Absolutely fascinating. Recommended By Dianah H., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
A National Geographic Best Book of the Year
Many people dream of escaping modern life. Most will never act on it — but in 1986, twenty-year-old Christopher Knight did just that when he left his home in Massachusetts, drove to Maine, and disappeared into the woods. He would not have a conversation with another person for the next twenty-seven years.
Drawing on extensive interviews with Knight himself, journalist Michael Finkel shows how Knight lived in a tent in a secluded encampment, developing ingenious ways to store provisions and stave off frostbite during the winters. A former alarm technician, he stealthily broke into nearby cottages for food, books, and supplies, taking only what he needed but sowing unease in a community plagued by his mysterious burglaries. Since returning to the world, he has faced unique challenges — and compelled us to reexamine our assumptions about what makes a good life. By turns riveting and thought-provoking, The Stranger in the Woods gives us a deeply moving portrait of a man determined to live his own way.
"A story that takes the two primary human relationships — to nature and to one another — and deftly upends our assumptions about both. This was a breathtaking book to read and many weeks later I am still thinking about the implications for our society and — by extension — for my own life." Sebastian Junger, author of Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging
"Reveals, in vivid detail, how Christopher Knight escaped society more completely than most anybody else in human history." Outside
"[A] fascinating story....Finkel manages to pry powerful words from the man who may hold the world title for silent retreat." San Francisco Chronicle
"Campfire-friendly and thermos-ready, easily drained in one warm, rummy slug. It also raises a variety of profound questions — about the role of solitude, about the value of suffering, about the diversity of human needs." The New York Times
"Astonishing....An absorbing exploration of solitude and man’s eroding relationship with the natural world." The Atlantic
About the Author
Michael Finkel is the author of True Story: Murder, Memoir, Mea Culpa, which was adapted into a 2015 major motion picture. He has written for National Geographic, GQ, Rolling Stone, Esquire, Vanity Fair, The Atlantic, and The New York Times Magazine. He lives in western Montana.