The Stranger in the Woods: The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit

By Michael Finkel
Read by Mark Bramhall

03/07/2017 unabridged
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    ISBN: 9781101924914

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Many people dream of escaping modern life, but most will never act on it. This is the remarkable true story of a man who lived alone in the woods of Maine for twenty-seven years, making this dream a reality—not out of anger at the world, but simply because he preferred to live on his own. In 1986, a shy and intelligent twenty-year-old named Christopher Knight left his home in Massachusetts, drove to Maine, and disappeared into the forest. 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 through brutal winters, he had survived by his wits and courage, developing ingenious ways to store edibles and water and to avoid freezing to death. He broke into nearby cottages for food, clothing, 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 his secluded life—why did he leave? what did he learn?—as well as the challenges he has faced since returning to the world. It is a gripping 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.

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Summary

Summary

An Amazon Best Book of the Month for March 2017

A March 2017 LibraryReads Pick

A BookPage Top Pick for March 2017

Many people dream of escaping modern life, but most will never act on it. This is the remarkable true story of a man who lived alone in the woods of Maine for twenty-seven years, making this dream a reality—not out of anger at the world, but simply because he preferred to live on his own.

In 1986, a shy and intelligent twenty-year-old named Christopher Knight left his home in Massachusetts, drove to Maine, and disappeared into the forest. 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 through brutal winters, he had survived by his wits and courage, developing ingenious ways to store edibles and water and to avoid freezing to death. He broke into nearby cottages for food, clothing, 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 his secluded life—why did he leave? what did he learn?—as well as the challenges he has faced since returning to the world. It is a gripping 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.

Editorial Reviews

Editorial Reviews

“[A] fascinating account of Knight’s renunciation of humanity…deeply compelling.” Publishers Weekly
“As ever, Mike Finkel’s voice in this fresh new chronicle of his is clean, clear, even, lucid—his attention fair and compassionate. He helps us to see his twisted saint’s essential sanity (and in so doing to question our own). The book’s an altogether surprising page-turner in those terms, played for the highest stakes which turn out to involve neither the usual cheap thrills nor standard suspense clichés, but instead to revolve around questions of the ever-threatened attainment and achievement of a very odd sort of sovereign sanity.” 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
I burned through this haunting tale in one rapt sitting. Chris Knight is an American original, a man who kept himself hidden from all other humans for more than a quarter of a century. Every life choice we make comes with a price, and Knight's can be tallied in moments of serenity and winters survived, or in break-ins and stolen propane tanks—the final calculus, astonishing, poignant, and vexing as it is, falls to us. John Vaillant, bestselling author of The Tiger and The Golden Spruce
As ever, Michael Finkel's voice in this fresh new chronicle of his is clean, clear, even, lucid—his attention fair and compassionate. He helps us to see his twisted saint's essential sanity (and in so doing to question our own).  The book's an altogether surprising page-turner in those terms, played for the highest stakes which turn out to involve neither the usual cheap thrills nor standard suspense clichés, but instead to revolve around questions of the ever-threatened attainment and achievement of a very odd sort of sovereign sanity. 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 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
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
The Stranger in the Woods is a wry meditation on one man's attempt to escape life's distractions and look inwards, to find meaning not by doing, but by being. Martin Sixsmith, Philomena
“Through interviews and other reporting with Knight and area residents, Finkel examines the solitary life story and unusual survival strategies of the mysterious figure known locally as the North Pond Hermit…Finkel delves into thorny issues such as Knight’s potential mental state, the truth of his claims (which are disputed by locals), and the deeper meaning of solitude, individuality, and personal freedom.” Library Journal
“If you’re a fan of Jon Krakauer’s Into the Wild, you might like The Stranger in the Woods even better. Once you start, in fact, you’ll likely have a hard time putting down Michael Finkel’s fascinating new book.” BookPage

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Author

Author Bio: Michael Finkel

Michael Finkel is the author of The Stranger in the Woods and 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.

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Details

Details

Available Formats : Digital Download, CD
Category: Nonfiction/Biography & Autobiography
Audience: Adult
Edition: English