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Editorial Reviews

Editors Select, March 2017 - The literal stranger in the woods obviously fascinated author Michael Finkel, and his ode to this stranger created an immediate fascination within me. At age 20, Christopher Knight disappeared into the Maine woods and lived a life of solitude for the next 27 years. Over that time, he committed 1,000 burglaries (a necessity for survival) and spoke only once. Finkel's portrayal of Knight's time in the woods, capture, and imprisonment is haunting, heartbreaking, and utterly human. Mark Bramhall's narration served as the perfect accompaniment to the story. His lilting delivery evoked the slowed-down life of a hermit, and his characterization of Knight captured the gravelly tone and halted nature of speech that one would expect from someone who has uttered only a single syllable in 27 years. I listened to this in a single day - it's simply an amazing story. —Katie, Audible Editor
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Publisher's Summary

For readers and listeners of Jon Krakauer and The Lost City of Z, a remarkable tale of survival and solitude - the true story of a man who lived alone in a tent in the Maine woods, never talking to another person and surviving by stealing supplies from nearby cabins for 27 years.
In 1986, 20-year-old Christopher Knight left his home in Massachusetts, drove to Maine, and disappeared into the woods. 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 in winter, he had survived by his wits and courage, developing ingenious ways to store food and water, to avoid freezing to death. He broke into nearby cottages for food, clothes, 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 the why and how of his secluded life - as well as the challenges he has faced returning to the world. A riveting 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.
©2017 Michael Finkel (P)2017 Random House Audio
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Critic Reviews

"[A] fascinating account of Knight's renunciation of humanity.... Deeply compelling." ( Publishers Weekly)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

By Gotta Tellya on 03-27-17

Interesting. Not extraordinary, just interesting.

Would you try another book from Michael Finkel and/or Mark Bramhall?

Mark Bramhall was an excellent narrator. Michael Finkel seemed oddly and overly obsessed with Christopher Knight, who chose to live as a recluse in the woods for 27 years, surviving by stealing from locals and never getting in touch with his family to let them know how and where he was. Finkel started interviewing Knight while he was in prison, having finally been caught stealing food from a camp for kids. The book tells Knight's story as related to Finkel by Knight and by those few who knew Knight. I could not feel very sympathetic toward Knight, who criticized and rejected society and yet lived off the hard work of others by stealing their food and belongings. I found the author's obsession with Knight to be as strange as anything Knight had said or done. When Knight was released from prison, both he and his family asked the author to leave them alone. The author was so driven to maintain his connection to Knight that he did not honor their wishes. He practically stalked Knight. I don't see how that could be OK. So no, I won't be reading anything more by this author.

What was your reaction to the ending? (No spoilers please!)

This is supposedly a true story, so the ending was what it was. It wasn't constructed to please anyone.

What about Mark Bramhall’s performance did you like?

Evenly paced reading. Avoidance of hyper-drama or tedious droning.

Could you see The Stranger in the Woods being made into a movie or a TV series? Who should the stars be?

Maybe this story could be a one hour TV documentary. I don't see it as movie material. Movie makers always morph a true story into something it was not, to suit their own ideas of drama. A Hollywood director or producer would no doubt try to make Knight into some kind of hero or villain. He was no hero and not much of a villain, just a selfish man who lacked sufficient regard for the feelings and rights of others, a petulant but not malicious parasite who wanted to be left alone.

Any additional comments?


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25 of 27 people found this review helpful

By Gillian on 03-10-17

Captivating Then Exasperating

There's no doubt that Christopher Knight's story is absolutely captivating... at first. And Michael Finkel does his best to portray him as a hero of sorts. Knight was a man who simply decided to bow out of society. Right?
Well, not quite. I listened to "The Stranger in the Woods" twice, and the second time brought out a lot of the story's flaws, a lot of Knight's flaws. It's no wonder that true hermits are peeved about his "Hermit" status because the man brought society with him. He stole a television set, a radio with TV, trashy books. He lived off Marshmallow Fluff and Chimichangas. He had his own city dump style garbage pit of plastics and waxed cardboard trash.
Mostly, the man was no hero--the more I listened to it the more it became clear that Knight is a man completely lacking in empathy. He knew he was causing fear, knew he was taking that which did not belong to him, knew plenty but felt he was entitled to it all.
Finkel's book covers why someone would shun society: political reasons, philosophical reasons, biochemical reasons, etc. etc. But there's no answer for Knight. At first I found this to be unsatisfying then I didn't care. Sure, it's pretty hilarious that Knight used pages from John Grisham novels when toilet paper was running low, but no, it's not funny when you consistently screw over strangers, even family. Further, the Publisher's Summary says this is based on extensive interviews and such, but actually it was nine one-hour prison interviews and a couple of quick interactions with Knight.
Take your chance with this book, if you're interested. As someone who's worked the graveyard shift for a couple of decades, I can attest that you lose social skills, so it's interesting that Knight lost his ability to pick up on body/facial cues, make eye contact. But the more I listened to the book, the more it came to me that the man simply doesn't care about other people... except for stealing from them. God forbid he should try to live off the land. Not while he could steal from them, judging them harshly the whole time...

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98 of 112 people found this review helpful

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