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The Stranger in the Woods
The Stranger in the WoodsKyla (3)
Heart Breaking

To me it almost feels wrong to discuss this book, because you're discussing a man's life. Who am I to pass judgement on someone I only know through someone else's perspective of them? So I will try to keep this to how this all felt to me.

At first I was intrigued by his lifestyle. I love camping, and I love the empowering nature of being by yourself, feeding yourself, keeping yourself warm. I enjoy just thinking and day dreaming at times. However, at a point in this book I became annoyed or frustrated with the crimes he committed to perpetuate his life style. Perhaps there is something to say for stealing for ones survival, but he took hand held gaming devices, and he declined help from others. To me it was frustrating to read something about someone seeking peace and solitude because he was so weighed down by the fact that he did not fit in, but creating chaos and insecurity in other's lives even when they offered him the respect and understanding of helping him. To me it was like he wasn't removing himself from society, he was just dictating his role within it without experiencing the consequences or rather, people's reactions.

But then near the end of the book when the author describes crying with Knight at his mother's home. When he described how Knight had found fulfillment, contentment, and purpose, and that was ripped away from him. Regardless of the manner in which he found those things, I understand what it feels like to have them taken away. I have been in a situation where I found peace, and fulfillment, and an excitement to wake up in the morning. All the time knowing it wouldn't last, but clinging to it for while it lasted. When it was gone, I felt completely destroyed, and I understand that longing and that out of body feeling.

So I while I don't understand the specifics of why Knight chose to do what he did, I empathize with what he has gone through and the lasting impact it will have on him. I think the author did a great job with the story he wanted to tell.

Keisha (8)
I agree with you! I totally teared up reading the scene where the men cry among the lilacs. What an incredible story. I love how the author, Finkel shared Knight's story with such empathy! It guided my reading of the "hermit" in a more positive and thought-provoking way.
The Stranger in the WoodsAimee (2)
April BOTM

Help! I'm having a hard time picking my BOTM for April! Which one(s) are you all leaning towards!?

ShelbyHawk (6)
I ended up going with Startup! After doing some looking on Goodreads it was the one that spoke to me the most!
lilLibraryOwner (18)
LOVE Goodreads!
MellissaHodgson (9)
I picked American War as well. Do you have a specific two that you are stuck between? I usually look up each book on Amazon and read the description. But ultimately it's hard to suggest what kind of book you should read because I don't know what your interests are :)
JenniferNash (19)
I picked up American War, which has really good reviews on Goodreads. But I am a sucker for post-apocalyptic fiction.
The Stranger in the WoodsTKKKKB (31)

I just finished this book today and I truly enjoyed it. It was interesting and intelligently written. My favorite quote was on page 68, "It's better to be tough than strong, better to be clever than intelligent." Good choice, Liberty.

The Stranger in the WoodsLinds (7)
Moral Code?

What do you all think about Chris Knight's moral code? He seems to feel guilt about stealing (at least according to the author), but he chooses to steal rather than accept any gifts from the cabin owners. He claims to steal only things that do not appear to be too valuable, but he seems to have no concept of sentimental value. Once he's caught, he doesn't want to shame his mother or family by letting them know he's in jail but is perfectly fine with causing them anguish at his disappearance and leaving his brother with the payments for his abandoned car. I'm curious to see what you all make of this.

Keisha (8)
Yeah, I think he refused to accept help because he saw that it would put him in the debt of the society he worked so hard to leave behind! I think in his belief system, the shame of accepting those fraught handouts from the society he didn't belong in trumped the shame of stealing from necessity.
Raisa (12)
I have mixed emotion about Chris. First, I must give him kuddos for living out in the wild all of his own. However, how horrible it must be for his family to one day have their son/brother missing! I found it strange that no one in his family filed a missing person report. As for stealing food, I feel bad for those families that had to live in fear that someone was breaking in to their cabin.
Julia (21)
I think he did whatever worked for him in the moment. He genuinely felt bad, but in the end, his needs and his agenda came first.
I really think he was torn. All along he knew the difference between right and wrong, but became desperate and had to survive. He could have surrendered and seeked help, but his mind refused to allow that to happen because of the social consequences that would follow.
The Stranger in the WoodsJadeMann (9)
The Hermit Lifestyle

I wrote this in a response to another post, do you think this book is promoting this lifestyle? Live in the woods, live off of the land? Similarly, Into the Wild brought another "hermit," story to us all, and we have seen many challenges since (I'm from Alaska and every year people attempt & are rescued trying to go out to the "Into the Wild" bus). So what are the pros & cons with a story like Stranger in the Woods bringing to the reader? Obviously his thefts could have been avoided, but what else?

Keisha (8)
Well, this book doesn't actually promote "living off the land". Knight cannot, or for whatever reason, does not (even though he grew up in a family of accomplished hunters) actually live off of what the forest provides. Instead of foraging, gardening, or hunting, he steals from nearby homes. That's a pretty good distinction, and one that I think merits some thought. I'm a southern girl, and I grew up with a weekend property in a rural community that actually had its own hermit -- one we affectionately(?) called Mountain Man. Part of why I chose this book was because it made me think of "our" Mountain Man, who was around that community for a couple of decades before just walking off and disappearing one day. Folks out there still leave his "residence" alone, and I think wouldn't mind if he came back one day. Like Knight, Mountain Man did not own the land he lived on. He was a fixture of weekend/summer life, even though he was almost never seen. More often it was evidence of his fishing and hunting that was seen. I don't think he ever stole, however. He was known to live off the land, primarily by fishing, foraging, and growing some vegetables. No one knew his real name or where he was from. There was plenty of speculation that he was on the run, and he was rarely seen, and when he was it was mostly chance encounters in the woods. Down here in the south though, our winters are very forgiving. I don't know if one could truly live off the land anonymously in Maine...
Raisa (12)
If people are going to attempt this lifestyle then they also better prepare for the hardships and everything that could go wrong. At first I was ok with Chris Knight living off the land, but when I read that he was on someone's property I was not too happy. The least he could have done was ask. I think the owner of the land said she would not have cared, so asking who have been nice.
The Stranger in the WoodsKelse90 (2)
What does Peace of Mind Cost?

I enjoyed reading this book. It really made me think about the idea of being a hermit and independent. The questions I have was whether Chris really ever wanted to be on his own? If he had, why would he allow himself to be so dependent on others for his survival? Would he not try to learn how to be self-sufficient? I was just confused that while Chris hated being part of society he chose to live among it and thrive from it. The other issue I had with his story was that he never had to pay for what he did. While what he stole seemed insignificant, the issue I have is that he stole people's sense of peace in their own home. How does someone put a cost to that? While I enjoyed the book and I feel that Chris ultimately didn't intend to hurt anyone, these are the questions that I was left with after I finished reading the book.

BlackRavenBird (1)
While I'm still reading the book, but I feel very much the same. If you really and truly wanted to live alone without interaction with people, you shouldn't be depending on them for your survival. Breaking and entering is a crime, stealing is a crime. If you google this guy, he is not the person I would ever want in my home. What surprised me was that the people just kind of accepted it. It annoyed me that he preferred breaking in and taking what he wanted when people were willing to give him what he wanted as long as he didn't break in.
jana (10)
No he didn't take any of the gifts offered and the book made it clear why he did not. He was afraid to touch them. Afraid they were either booby trapped or that he would be poisoned I'm assuming. He knew he had most likely angered people and that the police were after him. He was also afraid that the 'gifts' were some sort of trap. Can't say that I blame him for that either. I think people simply accepted it because A. He never hurt anyone and people knew it. and B. They knew the police were after him but thus far he had eluded him. What more could be done except sitting up and waiting for the guy and one guy even did that for 2 weeks to no avail. I think people simply gave up and accepted it after that.
The Stranger in the WoodsKateCook (6)
Should this book have been written?

Hey all -

I was just curious about everyone's perspectives on this question: Was it unethical for the author to write this book? Chris Knight seemed like he really didn't want to be famous or well-known (quite the opposite in fact), and although it sounds like he at least knew that the author was writing the book, he doesn't want the fallout and fame that might come from it. Does the author breach some kind of ethical duty by publishing his interactions with Chris?

On a related note, should the author have just left him alone? Chris clearly expressed multiple times that he did not want to see the author and wanted to end correspondence with him. Should the author have abandoned trying to forge a friendship with Chris and just let him be?

JadeMann (9)
I chose this book and while reading it, I felt so frustrated, the author clearly is reaching and is so desperate. This story reminded me so much of Into the Wild, the story of Christopher McCandless. I live here in Alaska and I can tell you its so infuriating having McCandless glorified, Into the Wild brings this man into such a lime light, that readers believe they can to just wander into the wilderness, with zero experience. Since that book (and since then movie) has come out so many people attempt to wander out there to attempt his adventure and find the bus he stayed in; most likely ending in search and rescue missions. I digress, but this book still reminds me so much of that story. 1) KNIGHT DIDN'T WANT TO BE PUBLICIZED 2) Are we then promoting this lifestyle? Is it safe, though Knight did have experience & intelligence to live in the woods, but he was so dependent on stealing resources from others - putting others into unsafe situations. 3) What do the people he stole from think of all of this, the author should have gotten some interviews and insight from them, they were clearly violated. I think at times it is unethical, especially with the reputation of this author, I would really like to know how Knight feels about his story now.
jana (10)
I must correct you there. The author DID get input from those with cabins in the woods as to how they felt about being his victims. Also I don't think this story is really all that similar to McCandless's at all. I also think your going a we bit overboard. If there's a lesson to be learned or a thought to be provoked then I believe writing a story AND reading it is definitely worthwhile. I think Knight was ambivalent at BEST about being publicized. He gave the author permission and was disappointed the book wasn't even longer than it was. Knight was a walking contradiction when it came to what he wanted in that regard.
Keisha (8)
I agree with you 100% jana!
KristyLindbom (6)
Chris knew that he was writing the book and still talked to him and agreed to go see him when he visited the jail. He could have simply refused. I think the author didn't show very well their relationship. They had to have a decent relationship for him to share the place/ experiences with him. Also he said his family didn't want the author around and that it would get him in trouble. Don't you think he would have been more blunt if he really didn't want to see him?
AndreaS11 (12)
i really enjoyed reading this book, but i felt the same way, especially towards the end of the book. Chris repeatedly said he wanted to be left alone, and asked to not be bothered, yet the author kept trying to contact him and have a relationship with him. Chris just seems to want to be left alone, without contact with anyone. I felt bad for him by the end of the book, like we shouldn't have been allowed to read it.
Raisa (12)
Yes! That's how I felt too!
Raisa (12)
Glad I am not the only one that asked this question. I really though the story was going to be told from Chris Knight's story. Maybe I skipped it, but did Knight even give the author permission? I think a friendship could have been formed, but I would not have written a book about it. Don't see the need to exploit a "friend", if that is was the author saw Chris as or maybe simply a way to make money off of the man.
Julia (21)
I think the author did have Chris' permission to publish the book, as at one point Chris says he wish the book was longer, in comparison with some other book that he admired. But the author's persistence with him seemed a little off.
JenniferNash (19)
This was not my pick, however, this is the exact dilemma that has prevented me from picking up the book to read. It feels kind of icky to me that the author nearly harassed his subject to finish his book. I also don't like the other comments I've read that the book largely ignores the affect that Chris's lifestyle had on the town he lived near. I don't think it's unethical for the author to have written the book, but it seems that in the writing of the book, the author did cross some lines that may have been better written around.
Kayla (110)
I think that is a very tricky (but worthy) question that you posed. I personally enjoyed this book, and at times, it did not feel like it was non-fiction. I believe that Christopher Knight did want his privacy, but he also (according to the author) seemed to solicit communication and friendship with the author. In some ways, the author could have written the book anyway, and perhaps, Chris felt that he could at least help shape the story being told. While others did not seem to enjoy the history of hermits, I actually found that part of the book to be quite interesting. For me, the history provided a context into understanding the drive for solitude. For this reason, I think Chris' story was important, but you are correct that the author took it a bit far in trying to reach Chris. To this end, it is honorable that the author disclosed his methods, and he himself may have been aware that he was crossing a line. This does not seem like a black and white issue to me, but I can understand how Chris' privacy may have been impacted by the writing of this book.
The Stranger in the WoodsAshleyPierce (2)

Did anyone else get the sense that the author had an unhealthy obsession with this project at the end?

I was overall unimpressed by the storytelling in this book, 3 stars at best -- but once I read the last few chapters where Michael Finkel RELENTLESSLY stalked Chris Knight, I was immediately off-put and creeped out.

lilLibraryOwner (18)
I struggled with this book. I thought about rounding up to 3.5 stars out of five. Interesting story. I had a hard time overcoming Michael Finkel's sordid past as a journalist. To his credit, he mentioned it towards the beginning of the book. At times I felt the story was superficial, but then I felt I was intruding.
Margo (5)
I felt the same way! I kept waiting for the story to get more interesting and provide more details explaining why this happened and more about the town. Instead, it just seemed like a way too earnest attempt by the author/reporter to get a story out of nothing. I also had to agree with some of the community about Chris spending 27 years in the woods without ever lighting a fire or receiving any help (other than things stolen). According to the book, he mostly just sat around reading and periodically listening to the radio-for 27 years? It just seems like there was so much more to this story that clearly Chris does not want to ever share.
Daisy (11)
I felt like his attempts to contact Chris at the end were part of his desperation to finish the book. He never says when he got Chris to sign a release to let him write a book--what if he still was trying to get that signed? Also, he knew his book needed an ending and he had to give the final where-is-he-now chapter. But, I agree. as I said in my first post, I wish the author would've brought in the cabin owner's perspectives as a way of rounding out the book, instead of adding his own POV to the book.
Mina (30)
YES! You've described how I felt exactly. It started out suspenseful and cool and then slowly fell off for me. By the end I really couldn't stand the author. I'm not sure the perspective was the right one. At the start of the book it was just about Chris and the author's POV wasn't present. Maybe it should have stayed that way...
The Stranger in the WoodsDaisy (11)
When Is It a Crime?

One question I've wrestled with is why this story got told. Put it another way, would a book have been written about a black man who committed a felony 1,000s of times over decades, holding a neighborhood in terror and whose victims said, "I couldn't leave my windows open, I couldn't even go and sit by the beach without worrying. He stole every bit of my piece of heaven." And another victim, "But we were invaded, completely invaded. I always feared he'd come in the night, when my grandchildren were there...I can't think of anything in my life I"ve been so bitter about." If the court system were looking at a man who looked like, acted like, and spoke like a "thug" would they have been so inclined to say oh dear, jail will be so stressful for him, let's just give him time served and one year's probation. ???

I live around DC and Baltimore. Trust me, many people walk for doing far worse than what Chris did.
KT (8)
Good point. I know people get testy when race is addressed in situational comparisons, but I really believe it's warranted in this instance. A good example of implicit bias.
Daisy (11)
I think this book is not only a perfect case study of white privilege, but also a study of the "one of us" mentality. I'm sure the fact the he was a member of the community influenced the judge's decision. Seriously, would the "jail will be too stressful" defense have been applied to a total stranger without family in the area?
KateCook (6)
That's a really good point. If he were from another country or state, or even a different part of the state, he would have been seen more as a predatory outsider, and something a lot worse would have happened to him.
IgnatiusRiley01 (11)
Totally get your points, and if race was factored in, there is no doubt that it would have impacted punishment/sympathy/press coverage (including the book itself), and I don't think the word "Hermit" would have even been employed. That term is too sympathetic and forgiving: "He's not a criminal; he's just eccentric." On a personal note, I was a scared child, never wanting to sleep alone, convinced kidnappers were outside my window. I can't imagine having to grow up with these stories of a serial break-in criminal roaming my community. Home owners losing their sense of security and serenity are the true victims. So I guess I am left with reader's guilt. I enjoyed the reading (as one may enjoy the reading and be conflicted about the content, right?), and I have not come to a resolve about what Knight's punishment should have been. Can I be both in awe of and not sympathetic toward Knight?
Daisy (11)
Well said. His patience, fortitude, and precision are to be admired. Even a criminal (especially a criminal, for fans of true crime novels) can be fascinating and perhaps teach us something. But, if the jail-will-be-too-stressful argument were equally applied to every criminal regardless of race, our jails would be a lot emptier. I wish the author would've spent more time on the cabin owner's feelings to help the reader resolve this conflict.
The Stranger in the WoodsIgnatiusRiley01 (11)
Finding reasons to be sympathetic

One of my favorite lines of the book was the one about Christopher Knight being a Rorschach Test, where we all project ourselves onto his story/being. It was impossible not to think of "Into the Wild" and Christopher McCandless as well, and I would say the same of him -- he becomes the allegory of our choosing. I am ultimately sympathetic toward people that feel a certain amount of discomfort within the boundaries of society and are looking for some sense of contentedness in the wild. Sheesh -- doesn't that sound like most of us?

I really enjoyed the book, and I appreciate getting to know more of Christopher Knight's story (wow -- surviving all of those winters), but that doesn't seem to be what he wanted for himself, so I hope that he is allowed a sense of privacy. But, as I finished typing that line I switched to another tab and Googled pictures of him (something I hadn't done yet), and realize that I am perpetuating the existence he didn't seem to want.

I'll end with a question -- Did anyone else feel like the cabin owners truly were victims -- but that there is no sense of justice in punishing someone like Knight? I totally get the owner's fears though-- and how their sense of peace had been so imposed upon.

Kayla (110)
This book was so thought-provoking, and one I have discussed at length with friends and family. On one hand, I understand WHY Christopher Knight felt the need to break into people's homes, but on the other hand I didn't understand why he didn't try to live off the land. Couldn't he have hunted or eaten plant matter from the woods at least part of the time? For me, that made it seem less acceptable to rely solely on other people's food/supplies, rather than perhaps supplementing his own items when times were especially rough. I am a very cautious person and I cannot imagine the fear I would feel knowing someone had broken into my home, sometimes on more than one occasion. While it is notable that he did not take 'big ticket items', he was still entering their homes and stealing their sense of safety (not just their items). With that being said, I also felt empathetic toward him and his desire to escape civilization, and the fear he must have felt while in jail. I have not yet figured out how to reconcile these differences. Also - I cannot imagine how his family felt! They must have been relieved to know he was safe and sound, but how heartbreaking that he totally cut them off from his life without any word at all.
AndreaS11 (12)
I was also wondering why he didn't try to live off the land more. he could have killed animals and gotten more plants for sure. I kept feeling so sorry for his mother, and for his father to have passed away not knowing is so sad.
KateCook (6)
I'm in a weird position to answer this question because I am a criminal defense attorney, and therefore my thinking almost is universally defendant-friendly or at least sympathetic. So you can take my response with a grain of salt, but I think his sentence was probably appropriate. The fact that he has done so well under the supervision of probation supports my conclusion (although they would have no way to know that at the time of sentencing). The only thing I would change if I were a judge is that I might organize a community meeting where the victims of the break-ins would be able to voice their anger at Chris and provide an opportunity for a dialogue between Chris and the community. I guess a victim impact panel, in a way. He wouldn't like to do that, but when you commit a bunch of burglaries, your personal preferences are the least of the court's concerns. A community meeting might serve as a source of healing for the victims. And it's a little different, addressing your anger directly to the perpetrator, than to the court at sentencing. It's more personal.
Daisy (11)
Interesting, KateCook. I didn't know judges sometimes did a community meeting. It seems like that would've been warranted in this situation where they were planning a light sentence but needed to acknowledge the hurt felt by the victimes. I wonder if the judge did not do one because his family was such an integral part of the community. Did the judge feel his family would be terribly shamed by having Chris' crimes discussed openly by neighbors in a pubilc forum? I also wonder why you concluded this was an appropriate sentence. I thought he'd be a terrible flight risk. I kept reading to the end because I completely expected to learn that he'd simply walked away from his probation and headed off into the woods again.
KateCook (6)
I don't think it's something judges do regularly, but is more of a "creative sentencing" that goes outside the scope of normal punishments. I think judges should probably do more to promote healing in their communities, rather than just jailing people or putting them on probation, and one way to do that is to think outside the box in their sentencing practices. As for why I think the sentence is appropriate, it's more of an intuitive conclusion. He had no criminal history prior to this case, he had a somewhat logical reason to commit his crimes, he was non-violent, and some people in the community were supportive of him. I think all leads to a conclusion that probation was the way to go. If he messes that up, he goes to jail, but it looks like he's doing just fine.
AndreaS11 (12)
a community meeting would have been very beneficial for the community, i think. i don't know how helpful it would have been for Chris, considering he already fessed up to everything, but it definintely would have helped the community have some insight and closure.
The Stranger in the Woodsj2deacs (1)
Thinking too much?

Hey everyone! First post and first book (of BOTM, not first book ever). One of my main feelings about this book is that I was angry (jealous?) of Chris but at the same time really enjoyed his perspective on living. Although I can say I don't hate society quite as much as he does, I do find myself wondering if the world we live in now has clouded our ability to truly think about what we're doing here. In fact, I sort of hate myself now for using this computer to converse. Is there any chance of getting back in touch with ourselves even if this might not have been Chris' purpose?

Elise (27)
Reading this book got me to think about how in life we need to find a balance. I know that Chris doing what he did for all those years was what he wanted, but I think it was too extreme. The thing that made it extreme was that he had to steal to survive. If he was able to hunt and forage to provide food for himself without disrupting the lives of people in the camps, then great! But he didn't, he had to steal to be hidden away from the world. It's okay to be introverted and live how you want, but not at the expense of others. I think where Chris is now is much better for him in the long run, because even though he will struggle with small brushes with society from time to time, he will never again have to sweat under time pressure in a cabin, struggling with the direction of his moral compass.
The Stranger in the WoodsDaisy (11)
Angered by Glossing Over by Author

This could have been a fascinating tale if the author had explored all sides. He limited his scope to one person, whom it is clear he felt a personal connection with, and I feel he was too influenced by the fact that he liked the guy to tell the full story. I'm sorry, but Chris was a class A jerk. He's raised to be self-sufficient, he's a master of patience and finding patterns, he's smart and able to build structures, he brags about his own woodscraft...but he can't build a trap to catch fish or animals? He can't grow any kind of crop whatsoever? He can't gather edible plants? He develops elaborate methods and systems for remaining undetected but he can't figure out a hidden way to light a woodfire? The guy was angry at society and every act of thievery was a coward's strike against it. This isn't glorious hermitude for deeper meaning; this is pure selfishness from an asocial bastard. The author wrote a few brief lines about the toll of fear and horror felt by the innocent and vulnerable whom Chris preyed upon. This story would've been a more complete picture and better rounded tale if he'd put aside his personal affection and conveyed everyone's side. What about those who sold their cabins? We don't hear from them but I bet there were many who made the decision to leave based on Chris's actions. It's inconscionable to so fully neglect the victim's side of this story. (FWIW, I'm a special education teacher who works with autistic kids. I know autism and this goes far beyond that. This goes into the criminal realm. Perhaps I'm so angry that once again a poorly informed author has overused a convenient label to completely excuse yet another misfit. As if all harm can be written off so long as you're on the spectrum.) Chris knew he was harming others and he made up a convenient reason for why he had to do it. All attempts to portray himself as a victim were calculated. The author, and more importantly, the court system, got played.

rachco93 (6)
The story is fascinating but I think it was meant to be told via a long journalistic piece with professional journalists who would've investigated all people involved (ex. cabin owners). I was very captivated by what Chris did, but I completely agree, if Maine is so big and deserted, why couldn't he have had a small garden, how come he couldn't fish? I wish all sides were taken into account so we could've seen if his actions truly did have an effect on the cabin owners. The more the story went on, the more the author seemed to be pushing sympathy for Chris - however, the author went against Chris's only wish: "leave me alone".
KT (8)
I'm so glad you wrote this review! I didn't pick this book for my March box, but I have been keeping up with reviews and was so confused about the amount of adoration people were displaying for someone who stole from innocent people for 20 years. Everyone seems to feel bad for a thief simply because he wanted to be a hermit. It's fine if you don't like society. But you can't go around taking from others to sustain your chosen lifestyle. The points you made about his craftsmanship but lack of self-sufficiency I hadn't even thought about and were spot on! I will probably borrow this one from the library just to get more background, but I'm at a loss for why so many people see him as a victim.
Daisy (11)
In the other commentator's defense, the author makes a strong case for sympathy for Chris. The entire book seeks to romanticize his actions and explain away the consequences. Out of 191 pages there were exactly two paragraphs of victim's statements. I'm not sure what genre this fits into. It's not a true crime novel because it glosses over the criminal element. We're almost led to believe Chris HAD to steal. Except, when introducing Chris's early life the author told us he came from a very poor, but proudly self-sufficient family who grew a huge garden and even made a homemade greenhouse to grow food year round.
The Stranger in the WoodsCoraBoone (9)
Interesting Read

So for this month, I decided to branch out of the genre I usually pick- and I was very pleased. :) I loved this account and learning more about Chris's story as well. I think that I may have also been biased as I grew up in Dayton, ME and was curious to read about something so significant happening in my state. Overall, I thought the novel was great. My favorite line from the book: "But life isn't about searching endlessly to find what's missing; it's about learning to live with the missing parts."

I'm definitely going to be looking at the news stories, etc. :)

Julia (21)
Me too, love that line. It will stick with me for a long time.
AndreaS11 (12)
i did love that line too! it's such an interesting story, that i could not fathom ever doing myself. To have that much silence for that long, i feel like would be overwhelming. I could see it being beautiful, peaceful, and enjoyable for a small while, but for that long, I feel like I would go crazy. I would be interested to hear more from Chris. I enjoyed the other historical information and psych behind it. I think it really added to the story and showed the "why" behind his choices.
bkharr (11)
Great story! I dog-earred several pages so that I could find some highlighted passages later. There was just enough psych and history added to give the story a little depth. It wasn't too preachy and the author didn't overreach with opinions. Very, very interesting.
PiedPiper (10)
It did inspire me to look more into the man though! He didn't look as I expected.
JenniferNash (19)
Oh, that line! This was not my pick this month but I may need to pick up a copy.
CoraBoone (9)
Yeah! When I read it- I had to write it down. :) I'm sure that there other little nuggets that I missed along the way and I may even re-read it myself!
The Stranger in the WoodsMina (30)

I had really high hopes for this book and feel a little disappointed. While the subject matter is super interesting, I can't help but feel that the story shouldn't have been written. Or if it was going to be written, I think a different author could have done it more justice. I feel bad saying that, but the entire time I was comparing it to books like In Cold Blood, and it just didn't meet my expectations in terms of style and writing ability.

KristyLindbom (6)
The true author should have been Chris knight, however, we all know how he feels about that. I would have loved to hear more about his experiences alone in the woods. But considering this is the person who he opened up to the most (that we know of) I think he's the second best choice.
Elise (27)
Have to agree with this a bit. It's not that I didn't enjoy the book. It was well worth the read and an interesting one. I lived in Maine for 14 years during the time that Chris was in the woods, so it wasn't difficult to picture the setting and I chuckled a few times at the mention of marshmallow Fluff, Devil Dogs, and Humpty Dumpty potato chips. But every time Finkel went back to Chris after the many warnings he gave, I wanted to yell at him "No, don't go back!" It almost made my skin crawl each time he went back, it felt like he was being disrespectful (even if he meant well). And although one of those unwanted visits turned out to be wanted, if I were Finkel, I wouldn't have pursued Chris in the manner that he did. I do agree that perhaps a different author would have done it more justice. Also, did you notice that the book synopsis said that Chris left his home in Massachusetts to disappear in the Maine woods? And yet his family home was actually an hour drive from his camp and his family home was actually in Maine. Not a big deal, but I saw minor flaws like this throughout the writing that caught me off guard. In the beginning, it implies that he doesn't know what decade it is, adding to the mystery of the man. But then we later learn that he regularly listened to radio at his camp and knew who the US president was at the time of his arrest. Didn't add up.
Margo (5)
I caught the thing about the decades and it made me less sympathetic towards Chris. His whole story is that he wants to be a hermit. Yet, he lives within minutes of cabins and other people, listens to the news, reads up to date magazines, and constantly steals food instead of growing/catching his own! Another thing that I thought was weird is that there was hardly any mention of what happened to his car. He parked it somewhere and then the author says it could still be there today. How?! No one ever reported a car just parked forever? That is really unbelievable. (Unless I missed something?)
mnoury16 (7)
When I started the story, I was also conflicted about Finkel's persistence on meeting with Chris. I thought he was being too pushy, too intrusive. However, with each meeting it seemed Chris opened up more (as much as he could, at least) and continued to share his story knowing that Finkel would be writing about it. I felt at the end of the story, where Chris tells Finkel "You're my Boswell", he is almost giving his blessing for this. While it is clear Chris wants to be left alone, and probably should have been, I did admire the connection they seemed to manage. Also, I believe Chris had been living and/or working in Waltham, Mass at the time he decided to disappear into the woods, so perhaps that is why the synopsis mentions Massachusetts? I never picked up on the decade discrepancy--that is a really good point!
Elise (27)
I must have missed that about where his work was, good catch! I think I didn't connect that together.
Mina (30)
I agree with everything you just said. I didn't catch the bit about not knowing the decade, but that's a really good point. I just feel like the man wanted isolation and didn't want his story to be told. It seems like the author had an agenda and I'm not sure how I feel about him cashing in on someone else's life. I wish I knew that about Chris Knight before I chose the book. :(
MeghanFairhurst (1)
Ugh, I agree! I muddled through this one. The story sounded so intriguing, but I was quite disappointed with how the author went about telling it...did not appreciate his long newspaper article!
PiedPiper (10)
I thought the writing was slightly dramatic, but I guess it fits the true crime type of genre books I've read before. To say it's the last hermit... really? How do we know? Also as someone who lived in Alaska, it made me laugh that the author said someone couldn't be a hermit there and Maine was the perfect place. Not true in my experience.
whitney3123 (1)
I agree. It felt like the author was making the story too much about him. I also wasn't a fan of the history of hermits.
Mina (30)
Same here. And I also didn't care for the parts where he had provided different perspectives on Knight's psychology-- whether he had autism or a mental illness. It was clear that none of the opinions were founded on facts as none of the doctors had met him. This bugged me.
The Stranger in the WoodsKayla (110)
Captivating Read

This is by far one of the most interesting books I have ever read. When I was not reading this book I was thinking about it or talking about it. I read parts of it out loud to my partner, I recommended it to a friend, I talked about it at a family gathering. For me, it was so hard to wrap my head around someone living a solitary life, by choice, for nearly three decades. While this would have been an impossible feat for me personally, I can understand Chris Knight's desire (compulsion even) to live as a recluse in nature. It was heart breaking to read about Chris' incarceration and the whole time I was reading, I was waiting to get to the end to know what happened to him. I was heartened to know he did not have to serve a life sentence for his break-ins, but struggle knowing he is living a life enmeshed in a society to which he does fully belong. I forced myself to wait until the end of the book before I looked up any information about Chris Knight - the pictures of his campsite were fascinating. Overall, this was an astonishing read and one I probably would not have chosen without BOTM. Highly recommend.

KristinMM (15)
I'd have to agree. The more I read the more interested I became. This was not a book I would have picked up otherwise. That really is the reason I love BotM so much. Sooo many new and interesting reads.
IgnatiusRiley01 (11)
I was rather taken by the book as well. I don't completely identify with Knight, but I appreciate getting to learn about his life. I found myself feeling sympathetic for the cabin owners though. It would be difficult to not fear this unknown presence, especially for children.
The Stranger in the WoodsEmilySemlak (10)
Super interesting

I thought this book was fascinating. What did you guys make of Christopher's grand life insight- "get enough sleep"?

AndreaS11 (12)
i loved that! haha I found this extremely interestng. The style of writing was very easy to read and understand. I do wish he would have included some more facts about the case.
Katieladyreads (9)
I loved it! Read it in one sitting. Think the author's insight/personal connection was great. While the advice 'get enough sleep' isn't groundbreaking it does not surprise me in the least that it was Chris's advice haha.
EmilySemlak (10)
The book was definitely written from a different perspective than I was expecting, which was great! It definitely wasn't surprising to me either... but of all things to say. Haha! I loved it.
Jordynicole19 (2)
I agree, it wasn't the perspective at all. But I enjoyed it a lot! His definition of enough sleep and mine are different, but hey we are different in 1,000 other ways. Im surprised he didn't keep any kind of journal, we do expect "people like him" to come out with wise profound statements because they live more freely and in touch with everything around them.
mnoury16 (7)
I agree, it was a different approach than what I was expecting! I really enjoyed how it was written and loved the author's connection to Chris. I thought the author was a great and informative story-teller! I was also surprised Chris offered up any advice at all, and I loved that it was something so simple. Advice that we should all take! Made me laugh too!
PaulineSmith (1)
Considering how little sleep he got, I laughed and found it to be a very sarcastic answer.
EmilySemlak (10)
I laughed too :)
The Stranger in the WoodsHaleyBenedict (7)
Interview with the Author

Although I have not yet begun reading this book, I thought I would share a video from a local T.V. station. I live in Maine, where the North Pond Hermit found shelter for twenty five years. Here is the link if anyone is interested!


I look forward to starting this book and hearing what everyone else has to say!

IgnatiusRiley01 (11)
Cool. Thanks for posting.
Jordynicole19 (2)
Thank you for posting! Interesting to watch, its so crazy to know its a true story!
laumck1 (1)
Great video! Thanks so much for posting the link.