The Stranger In The Woods by Michael Finkel

As an introvert who enjoys being alone, I was intrigued by the story of Christopher Knight, a 20-year-old who decided to up and leave his home in Massachusetts and disappeared into the forest in Maine... For 30 years! I have so many questions - Why did he leave? How did he survive? The book answers all of them. A big part of the book is devoted to detailing how Knight survived - How he bathed and kept warm, what he ate, how he avoided detection... Knight got around by stealing from residents who owned vacation cabins on North and Little North Ponds in Central Maine. It was estimated that he committed about 40 minor robberies in a year. It didn't take the residents long to realise that someone was living in the woods. Knight became something of a legend and was fondly referred to as The North Pond Hermit. As for the why, it is clear that Knight did not need other people. He was often confused by them. He was also disinterested in living a busy, bustling life.

He left because the world is not made to accommodate people like him. He was never happy in his youth - not in high school, not with a job, not being around other people. It made him feel constantly nervous. There was no place for him, and instead of suffering further, he escaped. It wasn't so much a protest as a quest; he was like a refugee from the human race. The forest offered him shelter... I think most of us feel like something is missing from our lives, and I wondered then if Knight's journey was to seek it. But life isn't about searching endlessly to find what's missing; it's about learning to live with the missing parts.

While not the most intriguing in terms of writing style, the book does pose important questions about the value of suffering, the role of solitude and how we all have different needs - Perhaps for some of us, solitude is as essential as breathing.


by Dawn Tan