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
Haven’t we all at one point or another had thoughts of running away and escaping from it all? Well, Christopher Knight did just that… for 27 years! In 1986 he built a secluded tent camp beside a lake in a remote corner of Maine. For nearly three decades he lived off of supplies he stole from nearby cabins and managed to survive some of the harshest winters in America. Stranger in the Woods reads like a hard-boiled mystery and seeks to explain why Christopher chose to escape, how he survived, and his difficulty in trying to reacclimate to society. It’s an incredible story about the extremes to which someone will go to seek true solitude. Recommended By Shawn D., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
For readers of Jon Krakauer and The Lost City of Z, a remarkable tale of survival and solitude — the true story of a man who lived alone in a tent in the Maine woods, never talking to another person and surviving by stealing supplies from nearby cabins for twenty-seven years.
In 1986, twenty-year-old Christopher Knight left his home in Massachusetts, drove to Maine, and disappeared into the woods. 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 in winter, he had survived by his wits and courage, developing ingenious ways to store food and water, to avoid freezing to death. He broke into nearby cottages for food, clothes, 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 the why and how of his secluded life--as well as the challenges he has faced returning to the world. A riveting 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.
"As ever, Michael Finkel’s voice in this fresh new chronicle is clean, clear, lucid — his attention fair and compassionate. The Stranger in the Woods is an altogether surprising page-turner that helps us to see his twisted saint’s essential sanity, and in so doing to question our own." Lawrence Weschler, author of Mr. Wilson‘s Cabinet of Wonder and Waves Passing in the Night: Walter Murch in the Land of the Astrophysicists
"Michael Finkel has done something magical with this profound book: He’s written a gripping modern parable about how one man did the unthinkable, walked away from life as we know it to find a sort of happiness in isolation and silence. His investigation runs deep, summoning not only his surprising, poignant friendship with the book’s protagonist, but also the human history of our own attempts to find meaning in a noisy world. In some sacred forest place the hermit waits for us: he is us. This book’s promise is simple: If we’re lucky enough to find him, we may find ourselves one step closer to perfection." Michael Paterniti, bestselling author of The Telling Room and Driving Mr. Albert
"Michael Finkel has somehow found a story that takes the two primary human relationships — to nature and to one another — and deftly upends our assumptions about both. His subject, Christopher Knight, survived alone for decades at the fringes of American society. In Finkel’s hands, that story assumes the power and dignity of parable and feels as if we have having been waiting our whole lives to hear what someone like Knight might say about us. Predictably, it’s not good. But it feels true and honest and important. 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
"[A] fascinating account of Knight’s renunciation of humanity… [D]eeply compelling." Publishers Weekly
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.
Michael Finkel on PowellsBooks.Blog
Now, perhaps more than ever before in my lifetime — with all the shouting in the streets, the Twitter tantrums, the rapid extinction of facts — seems like a good time to escape. To leave the world behind for a while. To be alone...