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Pilgrim's Wilderness: A True Story of Faith and Madness on the Alaska Frontier | [Tom Kizzia]

Pilgrim's Wilderness: A True Story of Faith and Madness on the Alaska Frontier

When Papa Pilgrim appeared in the Alaska frontier outpost of McCarthy with his wife and fifteen children in tow, his new neighbors had little idea of the trouble to come. The Pilgrim Family presented themselves as a shining example of the homespun Christian ideal, with their proud piety and beautiful old-timey music, but their true story ran dark and deep.
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Publisher's Summary

Into the Wild meets Helter Skelter in this riveting true story of a modern-day homesteading family in the deepest reaches of the Alaskan wilderness - and of the chilling secrets of its maniacal, spellbinding patriarch.

When Papa Pilgrim appeared in the Alaska frontier outpost of McCarthy with his wife and fifteen children in tow, his new neighbors had little idea of the trouble to come. The Pilgrim Family presented themselves as a shining example of the homespun Christian ideal, with their proud piety and beautiful old-timey music, but their true story ran dark and deep. Within weeks, Papa had bulldozed a road through the mountains to the new family home at an abandoned copper mine, sparking a tense confrontation with the National Park Service and forcing his ghost town neighbors to take sides in an ever-more volatile battle over where a citizen’s rights end and the government’s power begins.

In Pilgrim’s Wilderness, veteran Alaska journalist Tom Kizzia unfolds the remarkable, at times harrowing, story of a charismatic spinner of American myths who was not what he seemed, the townspeople caught in his thrall, and the family he brought to the brink of ruin. As Kizzia discovered, Papa Pilgrim was in fact the son of a rich Texas family with ties to Hoover’s FBI and strange, oblique connections to the Kennedy assassination and the movie stars of Easy Rider. And as his fight with the government in Alaska grew more intense, the turmoil in his brood made it increasingly difficult to tell whether his children were messianic followers or hostages in desperate need of rescue. In this powerful piece of Americana, written with uncommon grace and high drama, Kizzia uses his unparalleled access to capture an era-defining clash between environmentalists and pioneers ignited by a mesmerizing sociopath who held a town and a family captive.

©2013 Tom Kizzia (P)2013 Random House Audio

What the Critics Say

"A journalist's gripping account of a modern fundamentalist Christian pioneer family and the dark secrets that held it together.... Provocative and disturbing.” (Kirkus Reviews)

"Strong work of reportage.... [Papa Pilgrim's] intriguing past crumbles in comparison to his excruciating cruelty and to the inspiring grace and strength of his children." (Booklist)

"The riveting story of a megalomaniacal sociopath who left a trail of woe from Texas to the Great White North, Pilgrim’s Wilderness lends credence to the maxim that the unadulterated truth, when conveyed with sufficient skill, is not only more illuminating than fiction, but also more entertaining. Tom Kizzia has written an uncommonly insightful book about post-frontier Alaska, an ambitious literary work disguised as a page-turner, very much in the tradition of Edward Hoagland’s Notes From the Century Before and John McPhee’s Coming into the Country." (Jon Krakauer, author of Into the Wild and Under the Banner of Heaven)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.1 (150 )
5 star
 (59)
4 star
 (54)
3 star
 (32)
2 star
 (4)
1 star
 (1)
Overall
4.1 (132 )
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4 star
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3 star
 (27)
2 star
 (4)
1 star
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Story
4.3 (131 )
5 star
 (59)
4 star
 (50)
3 star
 (20)
2 star
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1 star
 (2)
Performance
Sort by:
  •  
    Dale 12-16-13
    Dale 12-16-13

    Retired lady in my 60s. Have the time to read now so I seem to be "devouring " books. Love my Kindle.

    HELPFUL VOTES
    3
    ratings
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    "bewildering wilderness family"
    Would you listen to Pilgrim's Wilderness again? Why?

    Yes, It is quite a long story, historical and entertaining at the same time.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of Pilgrim's Wilderness?

    The amount of control one man can have over " his" family


    What does Fred Sanders bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    Again, the length of a book. If it is too long, having a narrator keeps my mind from wandering,


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    Bewilderment and anger against Pilgrim


    Any additional comments?

    Good listen. I learnt a lot about the Alaskan wilderness and its "foreign" inhabitants.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Tammy Krueger 02-26-15 Member Since 2014
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    4
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    "Not the story I thought"

    I overall score this book a 2, not because of the writing, as it was we written but because I thought it was a book about an Alaska wilderness homesteading story. The book is actually about a horrific family abuse story. A nod to the author for his dedication to this families tale. It needed to be told.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    bob 09-08-14
    bob 09-08-14 Member Since 2011

    I have an excruciatingly long commute. Listening to books is about all that has kept me from falling into the abyss. History and bios only

    HELPFUL VOTES
    4
    ratings
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    65
    5
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    "Crazy book about a crazy family"

    Very good listen. An intriguing story artfully told. If you like learning about the odd balls at the edge of society you'll certainly enjoy this book.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    C. Singer Idyllwild, CA 04-25-14
    C. Singer Idyllwild, CA 04-25-14 Member Since 2011
    HELPFUL VOTES
    11
    ratings
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    13
    6
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    Story
    "Can't beat real life......"
    If you could sum up Pilgrim's Wilderness in three words, what would they be?

    Unbelievable, Recent,Sad. I can't believe this happened so recently. It started out all about land rights and curved quickly to much more.


    What was the most compelling aspect of this narrative?

    That it is so true, that things are rarely what they appear to be.


    Which scene was your favorite?

    I loved the connection to Governor Connolly, Jack Nicholson, Lee Harvey Oswald, etc. It was pure fascination.


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    No. I needed breaks to absorb all I had read.


    Any additional comments?

    This was like watching a train wreck. Heartbreaking.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Daniel N. Hill NY USA 08-22-15
    Daniel N. Hill NY USA 08-22-15 Member Since 2015
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Like the TV series!"

    Compliment to Edge of Alaska history channel series. Fills in many missing facts and completes some story lines that are left open. Very good reader too!

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Nola Kotow 06-29-15
    Nola Kotow 06-29-15 Member Since 2014
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    4
    1
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "shocking true story
    "

    gripping story! well narrated. will long remember this story! truth is always better than fiction.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Mike Orr Texas 03-25-15
    Mike Orr Texas 03-25-15 Member Since 2011
    ratings
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    59
    2
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    Performance
    Story
    "Good story, enjoyed it"

    Sad story, hopeful ending. Prayers for the family. Enjoyed it very much. Kind of heard to follow.
    Pilgrim's Progress references were great.
    Thank you

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jennifer 03-19-15
    Jennifer 03-19-15
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    3
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    "Good listen"

    Interesting true story- also enjoyed the back drop of Alaska- definitely worth the time. People are never sure how to confront crazy.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    J. Gray Carbondale, Illinois United States 02-10-15
    J. Gray Carbondale, Illinois United States 02-10-15 Member Since 2015
    ratings
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    2
    2
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    Performance
    Story
    "Really Amazing Story Well Written and Read"

    Great storytelling. Completely understand "both sides" in the Pilgrim controversy. Seem to be some missing McCarthy characters in here, though. Again.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Mr. Panama City, FL, United States 06-27-14
    Mr. Panama City, FL, United States 06-27-14 Member Since 2014

    Jonnie

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    60
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    Story
    "Great story, eccentric to villain"

    This is really a good story. The writing is very engaging and develops nicely as the Pilgrim deteriorates and takes his family and community with him. Right prevails in the end.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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