A Stranger in Woods: The extraordinary story of the last true hermit

Good Reading‘s Children’s Editor Merle reviews the true story of a man who lived in the woods in Maine for 27 years.

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The Stranger in the Woods: The extraordinary story of the last true hermit by Michael Finkel

In 1986, Christopher Knight, age 20, left his home and family in Maine in the United States and drove to the woods nearby. Leaving the keys in the car, he walked deep into the wilderness and disappeared. For 27 years he lived as a hermit, creating for himself a secret and safe place among the huge boulders and a thicket of hemlock. He was near other people and could often hear them talking, and yet, during all those years he spoke only one word, ‘Hi’, to a passing hitchhiker. He left no tracks when he walked and no evidence of where he had been. He was completely self-sufficient except, to live, he had to steal food. This was his eventual undoing.

After his arrest he would tell his story to no-one except Michael Finkel, the author of this book. It’s a riveting tale of how one young man – who had a good brain, a job, a new car and no history of unhappiness or abuse within his family – gave it all up for a life of solitude.

I am now reading this book for the second time and I still find it compelling. Michael Finkel has written a detailed, psychological account of Chris Knight’s life but always with compassion and understanding. And most of all, with respect.

I am left with an ache in my heart for this gentle man who just wanted to live the way he wanted to – a simple life, alone, without the unnecessary clutter of modern life.

5 stars – Simon & Schuster $29.99

Reviewed by Merle Morcom

 

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