Book Review: Pilgrim's Wilderness

Pilgrim's Wilderness 
A True Story of Faith and Madness on the Alaska Frontier
by Tom Kizzia

When Papa Pilgrim, his wife and their fifteen children appeared in the Alaska frontier outpost of McCarthy, their new neighbors saw them as a shining example of the homespun Christian ideal. But behind the family's proud piety and beautiful old-timey music lay Pilgrim's dark past: his strange connection to the Kennedy assassination and a trail of chaos and anguish that followed him from Dallas and New Mexico. Pilgrim soon sparked a tense confrontation with the National Park Service, fiercely dividing the community over where a citizen's rights end and the government's power begins. As the battle grew more intense, the turmoil in his brood made it increasingly difficult to tell whether his children were messianic followers or hostages in desperate need of rescue. IN this powerful piece of Americana written with uncommon grace and high drama, veteran Alaska journalist Tom Kizzia uses his unparalleled access to capture an era-defining clash between environmentalists and pioneers ignited by a mesmerizing sociopath who held a town and a family captive. 

Tom Kizzia traveled widely in rural Alaska for the Anchorage Daily News. His first book, The Wake of the Unseen Object was named one of the best all time nonfiction books about Alaska by the state's historical society. 

I know that a lot of people are fascinated by the Alaskan front. I believe there are two television shows, maybe three that are about living there. Another thing that tends to interest people are religious zealots, and Pilgrim's Wilderness has both of those things going for it. I have to say that reading though this book I think it's the best non-fiction novel I've ever read. Tom Kizzia is an amazing story teller. This book has so much drama going on, coming from multiple places that you won't be bored. If you have a bad taste in your mouth left over from whatever that non-fiction novel you were forced to read in high school was (In Cold Blood for me) let Pilgrim's Wilderness change your view. 

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