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The Stranger in the Woods by Michael Finkel

February 29, 2020

In 1986, twenty-year-old Christopher Knight decides to venture off from his home in Massachusetts and live as a hermit in the woods of Maine. He does not bring food, so he has to steal from other cabins around his hidden tent to survive. During this time, he has only one human encounter in the woods—with a hiker, and that is just to say hello. Otherwise, Christopher has been in the woods for twenty-seven years without having to leave, until now.

In The Stranger in the Woods, journalist Michael Finkel tells the story of the last true hermit, and how he survived in the woods without death, or being officially found out for twenty-seven years of living in the wilderness.

This non-fiction piece is written effectively in first person, showing how Finkel found the amazing Maine hermit and the challenges of interviewing a socially awkward criminal. The true-story masterpiece is also well written when Finkel focuses on explaining the life of Knight and how he knew his life’s purpose at the age of twenty.

Finkel describes the living conditions of Christopher Knight perfectly: what he ate, how he got it, where he lived, quiet hiding spots that only he knew about, what he brought into the woods and how he made his supplies effective in his challenge of staying alive, and the exciting adventure that came with his time in hiding.

Finkel also describes why Knight ventured off into the woods and abandoned lots of his belongings in doing so, including his own loved ones. All of this proves why this story will keep readers turning the pages forcing them not to put this exciting tale down, which makes for a very fast-paced book.

Another element that made this book effective was how it changed my views about people in general—for the better. I couldn’t understand why someone would venture off into the woods, knowing that their only relationship with anything was the wilderness. After reading this book I found the true meaning of why hermits live the way they do.

I have learned through this book that I should be less judgmental if someone like Christopher Knight thinks outside the box and goes out and does something new and unique. Now I know that there is always a meaning behind every human’s actions. In Knight’s case, it was to get away from the problems of humanity, which after reading this story, made a lot of sense. This book will forever change the reader’s perspective. It explains how rejecting society for a large amount of time affects a person.

Another book by Michael Finkel is True Story: Murder, Memoir, and Mea Culpa, which was made into a 2015 film. Michael Finkel also worked for National Geographic, Rolling Stone, GQ, The New York Times Magazine, The Atlantic, and Vanity Fair.

If readers like gripping true stories and the challenges of effective reporting, while wanting to try something new and read a ten out of ten story, then this amazing book is made for them. This piece of non-fiction will forever change their thoughts on hermits and possibly people from their everyday life, and the brilliant ideas hidden within them.


KNOPF, 203 pages

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