picked up The Stranger in the Woods: The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit after a friend recommended it. I decided to listen to the audiobook when I discovered it was available through my library system as I would be spending a few hours in the car commuting back and forth to class. I thought the premise sounded interesting.
I had no idea how enthralling Finkel’s book, and Christopher Knight’s story, would be. I’m already making plans to include The Stranger in the Woods: The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit in my upcoming Literature and the Land unit during the first marking period. I think some of my ninth graders will be just as fascinated by Knight’s story as I was.
Chris Knight’s story is nothing short of compelling. In 1986, he parked his Subaru Brat in the Maine woods, threw the keys in the console, and walked into the woods with nothing except a few supplies. For nearly three decades he lived in the woods and did not interact with a single human being. He stole food and supplies from unoccupied seasonal cabins in the area to survive and was finally caught by police when surveillance methods became more advanced.
The book is based on Finkel’s extensive interviews with Knight after his arrest and shines a light on man’s relationship with nature and man’s relationship with mankind. The Stranger in the Woods: The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit is a thought-provoking book that made me pause and think numerous times. Why did Knight leave? Is it always wrong to steal? What effect does cutting off human contact voluntarily have on a person’s psyche? Knight confessed to 1000 break-ins and is not portrayed as some type of savior or hermit in the book. He’s very honest about his faults and that makes him even more intriguing. Finkel presents his story alongside neurological research, interviews with experts, and nature studies. It’s absolutely riveting.
This is a book I can foresee my student’s really digging into. I can’t wait to share it with them. It’s also a great book to pair with Thoreau or Emerson’s classic works.