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The Stranger in the Woods by Michael Finkel

May 5, 2018

Woods Book


This book was very interesting, although there were lulls and my own thoughts about the tactics of the author, and through-out my readings I frequently paused and researched the story – I had to investigate the strange tale myself!!

The story behind the story seems equally interesting, as bad reviews pull in outside and unconfirmed reports I have yet to see if there is any truth in them.

But to focus on the tale at hand, in 2013 a small town in Maine made national headlines.

The prologue begins 20 years beforehand, when a 20 year old man decided to abandon the atypical American life. (If we lived elsewhere, would that behavior be usual at all?) And a small, remote area of cabins and a camp for the mentally and physically challenged children and adults (I believe? I read it awhile ago at this point) Someone was stealing items of various use, an old watch here and batteries year round.

Not all of the items were missed, and some did not have any financial value but only sentimental importance. Like an old watch no one could possibly miss was really the last watch a father gave his son before dying.

Similar things were taken from the many seasonal cabins around the area, despite the residents varied feelings about the thief. At first they must have been alarmed, was it some psychotic monster breaking into their homes, their safety nets only to leave them afraid and vulnerable? After a time, with no clues for the police to follow and nothing more to do about it than get used to it.

Some offered him money or food, pleading him not to steal but leave a note of what he needs and they would be happy to provide it for him free of charge.

Was he too proud to take the gifts? Did he see them as handouts that he thought he was not so desperate for? Soon the residents became angry that he would rather steal than let them help him.

This story is interesting in the fact of: what would make a 20 year old drive past his house, further and further north until he ran out of road. It is more than an impulse to live 27 years in isolation, surviving harsh Maine winters with stolen items.

His story is not like the martyr stories we may be used to like that of Chris McCandless, the Into the Wild story of the ill-fated Alaskan Wilderness Tale of the ’80’s into the ’90s. Nor did he write any earth-shattering new version of Walden or anything.

He admitted to feeling terrible about his thieving ways, but not enough to stop it would seem. He entertained himself for 27 years by reading stolen book or playing stolen video games, powered by stolen batteries.

Overall, the book is a good read in order to get a feel for the story, but the book does not answer any question it produces. Why did Christopher Knight do all of this?

Despite the author’s harassment of the “hermit” after his capture, during his incarceration and even after, hunting him down at his mother’s house during parole.

The story is top notch, but this book was not what I expected.

Still a crazy read though.

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