The story of the 'last true hermit,' who lived alone in the woods for 27 years

'The Stranger in the Woods' by Michael Finkel
'The Stranger in the Woods' by Michael Finkel
Courtesy of publisher

Every week, The Thread checks in with booksellers around the country about their favorite books of the moment. This week, we spoke with Tom Lowenburg, one of the owners of Octavia Books in New Orleans.

Lowenburg recommends Michael Finkel's "The Stranger in the Woods: The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit." It tells the history of Christopher Knight, a man who lived alone in the Maine woods without human contact for 27 years.

Knight first entered the woods in 1986 when he was only 20, driving down dirt roads until the roads disappeared entirely. He set up a rough camp and lived off the grid. He didn't even light a fire in Maine's brutally cold winters, Lowenburg said.

When there was something he needed, he would break into one of the hundreds of vacation cabins in the area. His rumored presence became a legend in the local community.

"But at the end of 27 years, someone has laid a trap for him and he gets caught," Lowenburg said. Knight was suspected of over 1,000 burglaries, and he was jailed after he was found in 2013.

Finkel wrote letters to Knight while he waited in the Kennebec County jail, suffering through the abrupt switch from forest freedom to imprisonment. He later visited him in jail, as well.

Drawing on those interviews, Finkel researched Knight's past to understand why he slipped away into the woods without a goodbye to anyone. Finkel's writing about Knight began as an article for GQ, and is now a full-length book.

The book, Lowenburg said, "makes you think about what it's like to be really alone."

Stranger in the Woods Stranger in the Woods

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