Book Review: The Stranger in the Woods: The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit by Michael Finkel

This is not the usual fare for the type of books I read but I found this on a discount rack and found the cover synopsis interesting and vaguely remembered reading about this case when it happened.  I am glad I picked it up.

This is the almost unbelievable story of Cristopher Knight, who abandoned his car in the Maine woods in 1986 and spent the next 27 years living by himself in a makeshift camp less than a mile from civilization.  He survived by stealing from the many summer camps and cabins on the two lakes, known as North and South pond.  It is estimated that over the years he broke into buildings over a thousand times.  None of the residents or summer campers knew who he was and his existence became a legend.  Over the course of his 27 years he ran into other people only twice and exchanged less than 20 words with them.  He was finally captured by a Maine game warden who set up intrusion alarms at one of the camps he broke into almost every year and Knight surrendered without a fight.

No one really knows why Knight did it, even he himself does not.  The author does a very good job of telling the tale and attempting to understand the motivation for abandoning society.  I am sure most people have thought about just walking away from it all at one point in their lives.  Christopher Knight actually did it.

This is not huge book, only 191 pages, but it is well written and a perfect read for a lazy afternoon or day at the beach.  If you have thought about just abandoning modern society or wondering what that might be like, this story gives you one glimpse into the reality.  The reality is that it takes a certain kind of person to just walk away from the world and actively avoid human contact and most of us are not that type of person.  This is the story of one person who was.  I very much recommend this book.