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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 (89 )
5 star
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4.1 (84 )
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4.2 (83 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Dale Wanneroo, Australia 12-16-13
    Dale Wanneroo, Australia 12-16-13 Member Since 2011

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

    HELPFUL VOTES
    1
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    5
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    Story
    "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.

    1 of 1 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 2007

    Jonnie

    HELPFUL VOTES
    75
    ratings
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    60
    56
    FOLLOWERS
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    7
    1
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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
  •  
    C. Singer Idyllwild, CA 04-25-14
    C. Singer Idyllwild, CA 04-25-14 Member Since 2011
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    9
    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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kero Ohio 10-22-13
    Kero Ohio 10-22-13 Member Since 2013
    HELPFUL VOTES
    1
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    41
    1
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    0
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    Story
    "Avoid this narrator."
    What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

    A better narrator.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    It's non fiction, there aren't really "characters", they were/are real people.


    Who would you have cast as narrator instead of Fred Sanders?

    Anyone!


    You didn’t love this book... but did it have any redeeming qualities?

    The story is good, but it's ruined by the reading.


    Any additional comments?

    No.

    1 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    S. GOETZE MARYLAND 09-17-13
    S. GOETZE MARYLAND 09-17-13 Member Since 2010

    CANDYMAN

    HELPFUL VOTES
    8
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    10
    10
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    FOLLOWING
    0
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    Performance
    Story
    "IF YOU LIKE THE BIBLE, YOU'LL LIKE THIS BOOK"
    Would you try another book from Tom Kizzia and/or Fred Sanders?

    NO. MUCH TO LONG.


    What three words best describe Fred Sanders’s voice?

    VERY...VERY SLOW.


    Any additional comments?

    TOO MANY FACTS THAT DON'T ADD TO THE STORY.

    0 of 4 people found this review helpful
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