The Stranger in the Woods

A young man named Christopher Knight literally disappears off the map in Maine and for 27 years he lives all alone in the forest without any other human contact. Knight reads voraciously.  He listens to music. He communes with nature. But his life is hard in lots of ways.  Many years he barely makes it through  the cold winter. He survives by stealing from cabins and camps when the owners aren’t around.  By the time he is finally caught he faces some 1000 charges of theft.

Here’s just two of the many things I thought about after reading Christopher Knight’s story in the book Stranger in the Woods by journalist Michael Finkel.

  •  After he was discovered, arrested and tried for his robberies Knight was reunited with his family. His mother and siblings wanted privacy, yet Finkel went ahead and told Knight’s story in a popular book.  Was it right for him to do that?  It is true that while Christopher was in prison for theft he replied to Michael Finkel’s request for an interview and that on a number of subsequent occasions he talked to Finkel about his three decades in the woods.  But should Finkel have written the book when he knew it would draw added attention to a man who was uncomfortable with any kind of attention and when his family expressly requested privacy? 
  •  I know there are people who are introverts. While others need social connections to thrive and learn and recharge…. introverts need to be alone.  We have to be respectful of that but……  Christopher Knight was an educated man, an excellent worker, a creative thinker, an intelligent philospher of sorts, and a keen observer of nature. His choice to live in isolation means no one else benefitted from those gifts including his family.  

The Stranger in the Woods is the March pick for the book club I belong to at the West Kildonan Library.  We meet tonight. I will be curious to find out whether other people had the same thoughts I did and to discover what struck them about this very interesting book. 

Other posts………

Leave No Trace

Loneliness

The Perfect Novel For Me

3 Comments

Filed under Books

3 responses to “The Stranger in the Woods

  1. Hi ML. (3.18.21) I’m replying after you mentioned this book in reference to my WIP debut novel. A few years back I heard a segment on CBC radio about the real-life events in Maine and it stayed in my memory and eventually became the impetus for a novel, “Mulholland and Hardbar.” I found the story fascinating and it appealed to the side of me that loves solitude and self-reliance. As you know, we live in the north woods and Jan and I have a longtime connection to life “in da bush.” I think you share our sense of awe for nature in Manitoba. I started plotting a story in my head and, as stories do, it took me on a different path when I began writing. My freelance editor, an urban Brit with a zeal for details and insights about the Canadian boreal (and Mennonites, but that’s another story) encouraged me to take it from an 8K-word short story to a novella or novel. It grew into a full-length novel and has been pared back since, to about 80K. Compared to short stories, I found an incredible amount of revision and doubling back, building worlds, building motifs and recurrent themes. Characterization… A marathon, but with sprints at the beginning and ends of chapters and scenes! You know the routine! Cheers, mjt

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    • Isn’t interesting what little things can give rise to a story. I don’t envy you working with such a huge book. Speaking about marathons my book is about half your size and the last two weeks have been this endless marathon of the manuscript going back and forth between me and the editor finding problems and mistakes and inconsistencies. It is supposed to go to the printer tomorrow but I need to do one last read-through before that.

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      • Excited (and proud) for you, fearful for me. Mine could come back from the Beta readers all bloody and cut to bits. “Bust to catshit,” as Hardbar would say. Oh, well — “van aul, dann aul” if you’re going in, may as well go all in!

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