Review: Pilgrim’s Wilderness
When the large Pilgrim family – parents plus 15 children – moved to the Alaska wilderness, they appeared to be upstanding, God-fearing people. The family was hard to miss in the small town and, at first, they seemed to settle in well. It wasn’t long before trouble started, though. Papa Pilgrim cleared a road leading to their home through a national park. As he fought the government, Papa’s family began to disintegrate as some of their secrets were revealed.
Journalist Tom Kizzia lived close to the Pilgrims and got to know them a little bit. He has written their story in his fascinating book, Pilgrim’s Wilderness. It’s hard to say too much about the book without spoiling things, but Papa Pilgrim was a domineering man who could be charismatic and charming to the public but showed a darker side to his family. His wife and children were abused and uneducated so he kept them under his control. I was fascinated by him even as I loathed him. My heart broke for his family, especially his oldest daughter, and I hoped they would find a way out of the horrible situation they were in.
The book is well written and I enjoyed it very much, even as it made me angry, but did feel like it got bogged down with details a time or two. It was scary to think about the way Papa Pilgrim was able to control his family and, as I read the book and learned about his background, I couldn’t help but wonder if he was mentally ill.
Fred Sanders does a terrific job narrating the audio version of Pilgrim’s Wilderness. It’s on 8 CDs and lasts approximately 10 and a half hours.