Stranger in the Woods
March 7, 2017
Before he was apprehended Christopher Knight had lived by himself for more than a quarter of a century.
Finally undone by a combination of top-secret technological advances and the tenacity of a Maine game warden, Knight was caught in the act of stealing food from one of his favourite spots, unceremoniously cuffed, and searched.
Eventually he was questioned, and that’s when things began to get bizarre. One mystery had finally been resolved, but another one was just about to surface.
For years the residents, and especially the part-time residents, of that particular neck of the Maine woods had been bothered and/or unnerved by the disappearance of items from their homes, and by break-ins of a somewhat peculiar nature; things of considerable value were left untouched while food, batteries, and flashlights were never overlooked. Books went, too, and candy.
The arrest of Christopher Knight finally put flesh on the elusive bones of what had become known as the hermit. What remained was the question of how he had managed to survive 27 years in the forest without human contact, and perhaps even more puzzling, why had he done so?
Forthcoming he was not. Author Michael Finkel, fascinated by the story, arrived from Montana unannounced to visit him in prison, and displaying remarkable patience and persistence, extracted enough of his story to fashion this book.
The reader is left with a lot of inescapable and potentially uncomfortable questions...
The state had to decide what to do with him; the hermit had to reconcile himself to living in this fractious and cacaphonic world of ours. Neither decision was easily reached, or universally satisfactory. In so many ways, this book will divide opinion as readily as opinion was divided in Maine after the capture and identification of the hermit.
The reader is left with a lot of inescapable and potentially uncomfortable questions, and this seemingly insignificant and very local story will resonate long after the final page has been turned.
Ben reads almost anything, for the most part with an eye for the unusual, the overlooked and the underappreciated. He regularly makes presentations of current noteworthy titles to interested parties, both in the store and out.