NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • 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.
“A meditation on solitude, wildness and survival.” —The Wall Street Journal
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.
On a summer morning in 1986, 20-year-old Christopher Knight didn't show up for his job installing alarm systems in Waltham, Mass. Nearly three decades passed before he reappeared and revealed he'd spent most of that time camping in the woods of central Maine. In this fascinating account of Knight's renunciation of humanity, Finkel (True Story: Murder, Memoir, Mea Culpa) struggles to comprehend the impulses that led Knight to court death by hypothermia even though his family home was less than an hour's drive away. To survive, Knight relentlessly pilfered supplies from vacation houses around his campsite, infuriating and terrifying homeowners and baffling a generation of cops. Finally apprehended during one of his raids, the "Hermit of North Pond" battled depression and contemplated suicide as he was forced to rejoin society. Drawn by the details that followed Knight's arrest, Finkel reached out to him through letters and visits. Despite frequent rebuffs, enough of a relationship developed for Finkel to broadly outline Knight's wilderness solitude. A fellow outdoorsman, Finkel places Knight in the long tradition of hermits, a category that has been admired and distrusted over the centuries. Yet even as Finkel immerses himself in Knight's life researching hermits, consulting psychologists, even camping at Knight's hideaway his subject's motivations remain obscure, leaving the book somehow incomplete. The book doesn't penetrate the mystery of Knight's renunciation, but the questions it raises remain deeply compelling.
Very entertaining read
Finkel tells Knight’s story well. The ending shouldn’t surprise the reader, given the story is about a hermit that wanted to be left alone.
The small amount of context and history of hermits framed Knight well for where he may fall in the hermit spectrum.
Finkel dabbled in a few poetic romanticisms about Knight’s choices that felt off kilter.
Ultimately, a great book to read on your phone and on the go.
Easy read. Great story.
Wonderful story on the complexity of human connection.
This is an interesting account and worth reading but I felt that it could have gone for deeper into Chris’s psychology, though I understand this information was limited because of Chris’s reluctance to open up. This was a significant limitation to the insight provided by this book.