The Stranger in the Woods by Michael Finkel narrated by Mark Bramhall

The Stranger in the Woods: The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit - Michael Finkel

 

This book has me conflicted! I listened to it, narrated by Mark Bramhall, and he was excellent. What follows are my thoughts on this book while trying to avoid spoilers, (even though the synopsis tells a lot already). Perhaps my feelings will become more clear as I write.

 

What I found most fascinating was this: think about how long you've gone in your life without talking to or touching another human being. I'm talking phone calls, internet, or hugs. As the author points out in this book-most of us have gone only a matter of hours. Imagine going for 27 years.

 

Is a person who has a need for quiet and silence sick? Are they autistic? Are they schizophrenic? Do they have Asperger's? The author asks all of these questions-of doctors and regular people alike. I couldn't help but wonder why everyone thought something was wrong with Christopher Knight. Is it so wrong to want to avoid people, noise, news, television, and electronics? Is that abnormal? I guess 27 years with no contact does seem strange, but sick? I'm not sure about that.

 

A number of philosophical views were also offered as well as quotes from many different books about hermits and recluses throughout history. Views on solitary confinement are also discussed, with most agreeing that solitary is a type of torture.

 

Here's what bothers me most: I'm not sure I'm comfortable with what the author did to get the information for this book. While I did find this story fascinating, the hermit himself asked Mr. Finkel to leave him alone on a number of different occasions, yet he persisted-not only visiting him in jail, but also visiting him in Maine once he was released. (Christopher Knight was incarcerated for a time, due to his repeated thefts of food, books and other items.) I'm not sure if I view this as honorable or as harassment.

 

I can't deny, however, that I did keep listening. I loved the parts that were direct quotes from Mr. Knight, because he had such a clear view of how he saw things/nature/people. Did all of these things make sense to me? No, but they sure did cause me to rethink my views on the world and all of its noise and distractions.

 

I will also admit to a bit of envy when Knight spoke of one of his deep winters in the Maine wilderness when there was NO SOUND. Nothing whatsoever. No animals, no planes, no birds, no chatter, nothing at all. It's hard to imagine that.

 

Well, I wrote all this and I'm still conflicted. I guess I am glad that the author pursued Mr. Knight because I did find this tome to be fascinating at times. It's just that I feel Knight's wishes were disrespected and I hate the thought of that; and I hate that I took part in it by listening to this book. Which probably makes no sense at all, but there you have it.