Michael Finkel’s “The Stranger in the Woods” had a spooky quality to it that seemed an appropriate read and book discussion for around Halloween.
I think everyone in our book club had mixed feelings about this book, though. While Christopher Knight’s determination to go out on his own and follow through with it could be considered admirable, it was how he went about it that we found somewhat troubling. He lived secluded in the woods of Maine for 27 years and survived on stealthily stealing from others around him. Now, sometimes as someone who likes to write, living alone for short periods of time does have an appealing quality to it, but if I were to do so, I would have a plan. One can understand some of Knight’s motives for doing so because with the good in our society, there is also the bad, and it could be understandable why anyone might decide to take on this life for that reason. Yet, he goes about it in such a way that goes against any type of moral compass. In our discussion, we talked about how the woods of Maine is one of the few places such a feat could possibly succeed, despite the cold winters and such, but then it seems the technology of law enforcement finally was able to catch up with him and track him down.
While the title seems to paint Knight as a legendary character, he clearly does not seem to fit the mold to me, and it seems such an idea was the farthest thing from his mind, when he was out in the woods. The book was very engaging and the narrative writing allows it to reach a broad audience. Throughout, despite Finkel’s lengthy interviews with Knight, the author could have done more to put the reader into Knight’s experiences. To be fair, the author allows us to empathize with Knight, as someone being at one with nature. While I had trouble putting this book down upon reading, I have to admit I was disappointed that the book at times seemed to be more important than Knight’s willingness to be interviewed.
Grade: C, 3.7/5 stars.