My very favorite podcasting people, Ann Kingman and Michael Kindness
(of the now defunct Books on The Nightstand podcast), were visitors on the Drunken Bookseller Podcast in December. I loved every minute of that podcast. And I loved that the two of them gave a shout out to some books that had not yet been published.
One of Ann's picks was The Stranger in the Woods: The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit by Michael Finkel. I wrote it down as a title I would be interested in and was elated to see it available on Amazon Vine.
And I was not disappointed at all. Ann outlined the general premise of the book on the podcast: Christopher Knight spent 27 years in the Maine woods, having no contact with any other humans at all. He never once lit a fire and managed to steal everything he needed from the cabins close to his campsite. He saw only one other hiker in the entire time he was sealed off from the rest of the world, and the two exchanged a one word greeting, "hi."
When the book opens, Knight is stealing from a local youth camp and is caught by police. His twenty seven years of solitude have come to an end. Finkel reads about Knight, and from his home in Montana sends a letter to him. The two develop a correspondence of sorts and Finkel travels to Maine where he is able to visit with Knight as he spends time in jail awaiting his trial.
Although Knight is a very private person, Finkel is able to glean a few things from their conversations and letters. He visits the campsite that Knight created and where he spent most of his time in the woods. He also meets people from Knight's childhood and hometown. From these bits and pieces Finkel puts together Knight's story.
From the first page I was absolutely fascinated by Knight and the idea that he was able to exist so close to civilization, yet so apart from it for such a long time. Finkel does a fantastic job of creating a picture of Knight by sharing things about his childhood, his motivations, and life for him after he had to return to society.
I have managed to tell nearly everyone I've seen in the past day while reading The Stranger In the Woods that they need to read this book. My husband has it on his nightstand right now, already fascinated by the bits and pieces I was sharing with him. I can't imagine there's anyone who wouldn't be interested in this story that is so well written and easy to get into that I had a hard time returning to the real world myself for the span of time I was engaged in this book.