One day in 1986, 20-year-old Christopher Knight decided he’d had enough of civilization. An introverted young man from an insular family, he parked his car in the woods of Central Maine, got out and never looked back. For over 27 years, he lived as a hermit in the forest. But an outdoorsman he was not. He never hunted, fished nor started a fire. Instead, the “North Pond Hermit,” as he became known, robbed the hundreds of seasonal cottages that dotted the area around his base camp. He took only what he needed to survive: mattresses to sleep on, clothes to wear, books to read and food to eat. As folks began noticing their possessions go missing and their locks being tampered with, the hunt for the mystery robber intensified. One night, that search came to an end when the hermit was caught stealing from a summer camp.
All Knight ever wanted was to be left alone. Once caught, he was forced to reenter society, which to him proved more difficult than enduring a harsh winter camped out in a tent. The author of the book, Michael Finkel, contacted Knight while he was in prison and, surprisingly, got him to open up about his motives, his mindset and his many years spent in the unforgiving Maine wilderness. What emerges is the portrait of a deeply troubled misanthrope. And yet, Knight is also strangely relatable too. Like many adults in the modern world, he wanted to extract meaning from life beyond just working and accumulating stuff. The novel raises many interesting questions about solitude, society and the pursuit of happiness.