The Stranger in the Woods
In 1986, twenty-year-old Christopher Knight left his home in Massachusetts, drove to Maine, and disappeared into the woods. He would not speak to another human being until three decades later when he was arrested for stealing food.
Christopher survived by his wits and courage, developing ingenious ways to store food and water in order to avoid freezing to death in his tent during the harsh Maine winters. He broke into nearby cottages for food, clothes, reading material and other provisions, taking only what he needed. In the process, he unwittingly terrified a community unable to solve the mysterious burglaries. Myths abounded amongst the locals eager to find this legendary hermit.
Based on extensive interviews with Knight himself, this is a vividly detailed account of his secluded life and the challenges he faced returning to the world. The Stranger in the Woods is a riveting story of survival that asks fundamental questions about solitude and what makes for a good life. Above all, this is a deeply moving portrait of a man determined to live life his own way.
'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, bestselling author of Philomena
'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. 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. This was a breath-taking 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 The Perfect Storm
'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 Valliant, bestselling author of The Tiger
'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
'[A] fascinating account of Knight's renunciation of humanity ... Deeply compelling' -- Publisher's Weekly
'An extraordinary story about solitude, community, identity and freedom' -- Guardian
'Not all heroes wear capes. My latest one is a man called Christopher Knight - a silent idol for anyone who has felt the urge to just sack it all off and live the life of a hermit' -- Lucy Mangan, Stylist
'A meditation on solitude, wildness and survival. It is also, unexpectedly, a tribute to the joys of reading' -- The Wall Street Journal