The Stranger in the Woods

The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit


“see his twisted saint’s essential sanity”

“As ever, Michael Finkel’s voice in this fresh new chronicle is clean, clear, lucid—his attention fair and compassionate. The Stranger in the Woods is an altogether surprising page-turner that helps us to see his twisted saint’s essential sanity, and in so doing to question our own.”

—Lawrence Weschler, author of Mr. Wilson’s Cabinet of Wonder

“a breathtaking book to read”

“Michael Finkel has somehow found a story that takes the two primary human relationships—to nature and to one another—and deftly upends our assumptions about both. His subject, Christopher Knight, survived alone for decades at the fringes of American society. In Finkel’s hands, that story assumes the power and dignity of parable and feels as if we have having been waiting our whole lives to hear what someone like Knight might say about us. Predictably, it’s not good. But it feels true and honest and important. This was a breathtaking book to read and many weeks later I am still thinking about the implications for our society and—by extension—for my own life.”

—Sebastian Junger, bestselling author of The Perfect Storm and Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging

“a gripping modern parable”

“Michael Finkel has done something magical with this profound book: He’s written a gripping modern parable about how one man did the unthinkable, walked away from life as we know it to find a sort of happiness in isolation and silence. His investigation runs deep, summoning not only his surprising, poignant friendship with the book’s protagonist, but also the human history of our own attempts to find meaning in a noisy world. In some sacred forest place the hermit waits for us: he is us. This book’s promise is simple: If we’re lucky enough to find him, we may find ourselves one step closer to perfection.” —Michael Paterniti, bestselling author of The Telling Room and Driving Mr. Albert

“I burned through this haunting tale”

“I burned through this haunting tale in one rapt sitting. Chris Knight is an American original, a man who kept himself hidden from all other humans for more than a quarter of a century. Every life choice we make comes with a price, and Knight’s can be tallied in moments of serenity and winters survived, or in break-ins and stolen propane tanks—the final calculus, astonishing, poignant, and vexing as it is, falls to us.”

—John Vaillant, bestselling author of The Tiger and The Golden Spruce


The officer unlocked the maroon visiting room door and I stepped inside and the door closed behind me, and I was shaken with nerves. (Chapter 9)

The Stranger in the Woods by Michael Finkel
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