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

64%

11 Critic Reviews

All this seems like obvious padding, but to give Finkel the benefit of the doubt, it may simply be that his affinity for his amazing hermit got the best of him. He does a remarkable job persuading one of the world’s more recalcitrant individuals to open up...
-NY Times

Synopsis

Many people dream of escaping modern life, but most will never act on it. This is the remarkable true story of a man who lived alone in the woods of Maine for 27 years, making this dream a reality—not out of anger at the world, but simply because he preferred to live on his own. 

New York Times bestseller

In 1986, a shy and intelligent twenty-year-old named Christopher Knight left his home in Massachusetts, drove to Maine, and disappeared into the forest. He would not have a conversation with another human being until nearly three decades later, when he was arrested for stealing food. Living in a tent even through brutal winters, he had survived by his wits and courage, developing ingenious ways to store edibles and water, and to avoid freezing to death. He broke into nearby cottages for food, clothing, reading material, and other provisions, taking only what he needed but terrifying a community never able to solve the mysterious burglaries. Based on extensive interviews with Knight himself, this is a vividly detailed account of his secluded life—why did he leave? what did he learn?—as well as the challenges he has faced since returning to the world. It is a gripping story of survival that asks fundamental questions about solitude, community, and what makes a good life, and a deeply moving portrait of a man who was determined to live his own way, and succeeded.
 

About Michael Finkel

See more books from this Author
Michael Finkel has written for the Atlantic Monthly, National Geographic Adventure, Rolling Stone, Esquire, Sports Illustrated, and the New York Times Magazine. He lives in western Montana.
 
Published March 7, 2017 by Knopf. 225 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, Health, Fitness & Dieting, Nature & Wildlife, Sports & Outdoors, Travel, Science & Math. Non-fiction
Bestseller Status:
icon9
Peak Rank on Apr 16 2017
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Weeks as Bestseller
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Critic reviews for The Stranger in the Woods
All: 11 | Positive: 6 | Negative: 5

Publishers Weekly

Above average
on Jun 24 2017

The book doesn’t penetrate the mystery of Knight’s renunciation, but the questions it raises remain deeply compelling.

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NY Journal of Books

Above average
Reviewed by Laura Schultz on Mar 06 2017

The Stranger in the Woods: The Extraordinary Story of the Last Hermit may not appeal to everyone. But for those who desire an amazing true story that is told with immeasurable depth and compassion, it is an extraordinary glimpse into a world that defies much of what we think we know about people.

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Star Tribune

Below average
Reviewed by Laurie Hertzel on Mar 03 2017

There is no wisdom here. Sometimes a hermit is just a hermit. Sometimes a thief is just a thief. Finkel did his best. The book is interesting, but it is not illuminating.

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Book Reporter

Above average
Reviewed by Barbara Bamberger Scott on Mar 17 2017

Thought-provoking, especially for the armchair hermits among us who like to imagine they would enjoy total solitude for a few days, but probably not for years, THE STRANGER IN THE WOODS is notable for the author's earnest attempts to learn more and his elusive subject's clear desire to reveal less.

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Globe and Mail

Good
Reviewed by Michael Harris on Mar 10 2017

I was drawn through these pages in a single sitting – their pull is true and magnetic. By the unsettling conclusion, both hermit and author have wept at the impossibility of the situation: the longing to commune with an unknowable force outside of the rude crowd, the need to connect with something beyond our daily handshakes...

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NY Times

Below average
Reviewed by Josh Tyrangiel on Apr 21 2017

All this seems like obvious padding, but to give Finkel the benefit of the doubt, it may simply be that his affinity for his amazing hermit got the best of him. He does a remarkable job persuading one of the world’s more recalcitrant individuals to open up...

Read Full Review of The Stranger in the Woods: Th... | See more reviews from NY Times

NY Times

Below average
Reviewed by Jennifer Senior on Mar 16 2017

Finkel appears to have been quite conscientious in writing “The Stranger in the Woods.” He provides notes on sources. He gives the names of his (two!) fact-checkers. But it’s hard not to notice that he’s chosen a story that is, in some sense, impossible to completely nail down.

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The Maine Edge

Excellent
Reviewed by Allen Adams on Mar 01 2017

Concise and relatively short, “The Stranger in the Woods” is possessed of a readability that borders on the compulsive. Filled with details writ both large and small, the book allows a glimpse (albeit an unavoidably incomplete one) at the sort of man who would willingly embrace such a life.

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USA Today

Above average
Reviewed by Matt Damsker on Mar 13 2017

...Michael Finkel’s intriguing account of Knight’s capture and confessions, and while it amasses the inventive details of Knight’s solitary life, it can’t quite explain the man himself. Knight is opaque — more than a loner, hardly a lunatic.

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Ploughshares Literary Magazine

Above average
Reviewed by Aaron Sommers on May 21 2017

Despite the incongruities of his subject, Finkel remains relatively neutral through the book, and it only enhances his narrative. The book closes without a clear explanation of why he did it, but Finkel never promised that anyway.

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https://bookpage.com

Good
Reviewed by Alice Cary on Mar 07 2017

Well researched and compassionate, The Stranger in the Woods is a thought-provoking account that will make you thankful for your next hot meal and warm bed, especially on a stormy, bone-chilling night.

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Reader Rating for The Stranger in the Woods
85%

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