Saturday 16 May 2020

The Stranger in the Woods

Finished April 26
The Stranger in the Woods: The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit by Michael Finkel

I liked this book a lot more than I thought I would. I read it for a book club for work that never ended up happening, but am glad I did.
In 1986, twenty-year-old Christopher Knight drove his truck deep into the woods of rural Maine, got out of it and started walking. He hadn't quit his job installing security systems. He hadn't said anything to his family, or worried about the fact that one of his brothers had co-signed for his truck not that long ago. He still can't explain what exactly was going through his mind. Twenty-seven years later, perseverance by a local police officer working to solve a long series of break-ins and minor thefts in the area, caught him red-handed stealing from a camp.
As the story broke, across the country journalist Michael Finkel became very interested in the story, wrote Knight while he was in jail, and then flew out and had multiple meetings with him, trying to uncover his story and make some effort at understanding this unusual man.
Finkel is a good writer, and has done a lot of research into hermits, and into this particular one. He visited the site of Knight's camp in the woods several times, and talked to many of the people in the area, both those that were victims of his thefts and those that were not.
Finkel's effort to get into Knight's head and truly understand why he went into the woods and stayed there, how he managed to survive even through extreme cold, and his effect on the community that he lived near is insightful and fascinating.
Highly recommend.

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