The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit. By: Michael Finkel. Check it out here.
When I come across recommended book lists or friend recommendations I add them to my reading list on Amazon and that’s usually how I decide what to read next. I also like to use the app/website Good Reads. They recommend books to you based on what you have read and it also helps you keep track of what you have read. Helpful if you’re a crazy book worm like me.
Anyways… back to the book. The Stranger in the Woods is a true story about a guy named Christopher Knight who lived in solitude, out in the woods of Maine (USA) for 27 years. He claims to have had no contact with the outside world, except for on two occasions where he ran into some hikers and that was exchanged was a “Hello”. He ends up having to come back to society, not on his own terms. He gets caught for theft and actually ends up going to prison. The author of the book is a man who was so interested in his story that he travels to the prison where Knight is being kept and begins to conduct interviews with him. So most of the book is told from Knights own accounts of what went on during those 27 years alone in the woods.
A lot of the local people end up being skeptical of his tale because he would have had to brave some brutal winters with minimal accommodations. He became an urban legend and he actually caused a lot of turmoil for the locals he stole from.
The author spins the whole thing into quite an interesting story. He brings in a lot of the outside accounts from locals, the police who caught him and investigators who had been on the case for almost 3 decades. This is important because at first I found myself pissed off that they would actually send the guy to prison but then when the author recounts the outsiders perspective and calculates the numbers of stolen goods and property within the 27 years, it makes sense that he must pay for his crimes even though he never directly hurt anyone and all he truly wanted was to be left alone.
Experts believe he has a mental illness, but the author also goes on to explain how hermits are not an uncommon thing throughout history. It makes sense. If you’re an introvert like myself, how many times have you wished to a get away or escape from other people. The question is, could you actually do it? & for how long? This is guy fucking did it. 2 fucking 7 years.
It is a crazy story that is definitely worth reading. At times it makes you wish you had the courage to go out and be a hermit, but then again it makes you appreciate the surrounding friendships, family and every day comforts you have and might take for granted. If you in fact have those things, I am aware not all people are as fortune as myself.
One thing that I did find annoying was how involved the author got in Knight’s life. He tries really hard to get in touch with Knight’s family who also wants nothing to do with other people that they are not familiar with. He even becomes pretty stockerish at the end and visits Knight when he is released from prison, even though Knight asks him not to. But, anyways read it & decide for yourself what you think of the 27 year adventure away from society.