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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

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

Critic Reviews

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

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
  • Gillian
  • Austin, TX, United States
  • 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...

115 of 131 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Outstanding book

My expectations of this book were not high. I had anticipated a fairly sensationalist treatment of a bizarre story. Instead, I found a beautifully written, sensitive and richly contextualized treatment, one that situates the fascinating story of Chris Knight within an informed rumination on the nature of loneliness and human connection.

11 of 13 people found this review helpful

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  • Marla
  • COLUMBIA FALLS, MT, United States
  • 03-08-17

What about the masks that you wear?

Finally, I found a book that grabbed my attention and would not let me go. Do you desire to be alone? Do you love solitude? What if you could take off all of the masks you wear? The one you wear for your spouse, each child, the teacher, the preacher, your church friends, your co workers, customers, neighbors, yourself when you look in the mirror, etc. Who would you be? I sure don't know. Being all alone is very desirable to me and that is why this book caught my attention. It is told in a very catching way. I like how Mr Finkel has delved into so much research on different aspects of this man's character. What caused him to be this way. I found no doubt in the fact that this story is true. Did you ever make a tree house or a pretend house in the woods or some sort of hiding spot as a child? Perhaps we might all have a longing to this hidden secret spot where no one can bother you. The author has brought so many deep thought provoking thoughts with his questions. The narrator did a fairly decent job. occasionally slipping into a faster paced speech when it should have been slower but overall was very enjoyable to listen to. I have not written a review on a book for a long time but was so delighted with this book that I had to. I even shared it on my facebook page.

22 of 27 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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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?

No.

28 of 35 people found this review helpful

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I now wish to get lost in the wood

a man who no longer wants to stay in such a depressed society as we live in is someone to be admired. it seems he did not want admiration or any attention for leading such an intriguing life. although the detriment to his surrounding environment from the trash he buried and him simply being human makes me sad I understand he did what he had to do in order to survive. I love the way the narrator impersonated the characters of the story and will probably listen to it again as it fades for my memory.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Facinating And True!

I really enjoyed this book. There were times I laughed out loud and others when I teared up.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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I thought this might be something new

What would have made The Stranger in the Woods better?

This is, word for word, a tv documentary I saw several years ago. I was hoping it would give more information, more details, more of a story.... but it is literally the documentary.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Loved it

Amazing story. Very powerful trying to imagine what it really must have been like to experience what he did. Felt an strong connection and compassion for Mr Knight. Narration was excellent.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Very Interesting

Not a book I would normally read, however the story was very interesting and the narration was spot on.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Really interesting story

Fascinating story about a real life character. Didn't want the tale to end. Highly recommend. AUDIBLE 20 REVIEW SWEEPSTAKES ENTRY

1 of 1 people found this review helpful