The Stranger in the Woods is the non-fiction account of Christopher Knight, an ordinary man who lived in the Maine wilderness without help from or contact with the outside world. This is not a political book. Knight did not retreat to the world out of anger, or to make a statement, he simply did so because he preferred it.
How does one survive in the woods of Maine for almost three decades without help, you might ask? Christopher Knight did it with a combination of wits, determination, and some "harmless" stealing. Over the course of his 27 years in the woods, Knight burglarized the homes and camps in his area over a thousand times in order to gain supplies. He never stole from residents while they were home, and never took more than he needed. Nonetheless, it left an entire community feeling both violated and curious.
The author, Michael Finkel, got to know Knight over the course of a handful of interviews conducted during Finkel's time in jail. He takes us from Knight's early life, making a stop at the day Knight decided to take to the woods, and drops us off with where he is today. Along the way, we learn not only about Knight's motivations and experiences, but also the experiences of other hermits throughout different times and cultures.
Reading this book is an interesting experience. Throughout the interviews, you get the sense that Knight just wanted to be left alone. He doesn't seek acceptance or to be understood. He was simply living his life. Though he gives Finkel permission to write this book, I can't help but feel it's exploitive on some level. Knight never meant for his story to be told. His only wish was to live the remainder of his life in the wilderness, neither his existence nor story known by anyone.
For a non-fiction book, this was a quick read - one that you get sucked into. As the saying goes, sometimes truth is stranger than fiction.