The Stranger in the Woods was a very compelling book and I have things to say about it. It is the tale of Christopher Knight, the hermit of the Little North Pond of Maine. When he was twenty, he packed up and went into the woods, made a camp, and made no other contact with people after that for nearly 30 years. He survived by stealing from unoccupied cabins and camps nearby the entire time.
On the one hand, I’m terribly fascinated by the idea of running off into the woods alone for years on end. There are days when I would love nothing more than to flee society and live alone with only my thoughts to keep me company. At heart, I’m pretty much an anchoress. Certainly I seem to have an affinity for them. So living in the woods in a tent sometimes sounds relaxing sometimes. I rather like the idea. I could think a lot. I would write, which is not something Chris Knight did during his time in the woods.
On the other hand, I do not condone his thievery. I know he had his own moral code of sorts and that he would not have harmed anyone. But no one he stole from could have known that. The social contract exists for a reason. The things he stole were small and not really missed. But he stole more than food and items. He stole peace of mind. He stole a feeling of security in their own homes, and that is not ok. It is why I want to know why Knight didn’t go live on State land and hunt and fish for his food. Why not do this, where it would be more isolated, further from people, where he could do almost anything he wanted without being bothered? It strikes me as just being super lazy, not resourceful like Knight wants to think, that he chose to live be theft instead of really living off the land. If you want to be a hermit, cool. Then be a real one. Don’t steal. Make it on your own. He seemed like a tree-hugging version of a deadbeat more than anything.
Aside from the moral issues of Chris Knight himself, I found the book itself to be well written and very unbiased. Finkel did a superb job of treating all sides fairly and impartially, presenting the facts clearly. I was fascinated throughout. I recommend this book for anyone interested in the value of modern hermits. And there is a very great deal to be learned by being alone and being isolated. If you don’t believe me or can’t think of what value there is in totally unplugging from modern society, then you definitely need to read this.
I read it as a: hardback
Source: my own collection
Publisher: Knopf, 2017