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Review: Pilgrim’s Wilderness

September 5, 2013

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.

Review copy provided by Random House.  I am an Indiebound Affliate.
25 Comments leave one →
  1. September 5, 2013 8:02 am

    Haven’t heard of this book before… it sounds both fascinating and disturbing!

  2. September 5, 2013 8:06 am

    This would make me too mad!

  3. September 5, 2013 9:28 am

    I find it very difficult to read books which deal with abuse of children and women so maybe this one is not for me.

  4. September 5, 2013 10:27 am

    An interview I read with author Tom Kizzia was scary on its own. I do think this will appeal to readers who enjoyed UNDER THE BANNER OF HEAVEN by Jon Krakauer.

  5. September 5, 2013 12:01 pm

    This sounds like a book that would be difficult to listen to, but fascinating as well. Terrific review, Kathy!

  6. September 5, 2013 12:54 pm

    Sounds intriguing!

  7. September 5, 2013 1:14 pm

    I agree with The Book Bully, sounds like the Krakauer. I can imagine that there are a lot of families like this that go under the radar.

  8. September 5, 2013 2:27 pm

    This sounds difficult but still so interesting. I hadn’t heard of the book before this but I think I will be checking it out. Maybe an audiobook for my commute…

  9. September 5, 2013 3:38 pm

    I’m intrigued, though I expect that like Jill, it would make me mad.

  10. September 5, 2013 3:42 pm

    I think this one would make me too angry.

  11. boardinginmyforties permalink
    September 5, 2013 4:11 pm

    Sounds interesting. I hope the children got out and were able to move on from their childhood traumas.

  12. Patty permalink
    September 5, 2013 4:13 pm

    I love that you can read books that I would have a hard time looking twice at…does that make sense? I think what I mean is I love that you make me aware of other genres!

    Once I got into this…I would probably enjoy it!

  13. September 5, 2013 4:27 pm

    Well the title of this book does have the word madness in it so I don’t think you’re off in thinking Papa Pilgrim was mentally ill.

  14. September 5, 2013 7:01 pm

    Couldn’t find this one on audio at my library yet so I’m hoping it will come soon. I’ve been fascinated by this book ever since I read the synopsis a while back. It sounds promising.

  15. September 5, 2013 7:48 pm

    Never heard of this but sounds fascinating. Just my type of thing!

  16. September 5, 2013 10:06 pm

    isn’t it awful how people will treat their families while putting on a different face to the outside world

  17. September 5, 2013 10:31 pm

    Too bad Papa Pilgrim didn’t get kicked to the curb! Or, maybe he did? I’ll have to read it and find out!

  18. September 5, 2013 11:52 pm

    I cannot stand bullies like this!

  19. sandynawrot permalink
    September 6, 2013 7:02 am

    I would probably enjoy this one, if only because it is a true story and I would probably learn something. And get mad!

  20. September 6, 2013 7:21 pm

    I’ve never heard of this family before but what a story they must tell!

  21. September 8, 2013 5:39 am

    This sounds like a powerful read especially because it is a true story. For sure I would need to put it down from time to time because of getting angry but I guess you are right: the dad is/was mentally ill and needed help. Sadly there are so many dysfunctional families like this…

  22. September 8, 2013 7:40 pm

    Oh, man, this sounds fascinating. I am going to look for it!

  23. bookingmama permalink
    September 9, 2013 9:42 am

    This story does sound fascinating for quite a few reasons.

  24. September 11, 2013 10:52 pm

    This reminds me a bit of the Poisonwood Bible. Fascinating but horrible characters! Thanks for sharing this at Booknificent Thursday!

  25. September 15, 2013 4:47 pm

    This one looks interesting. I think I’d like it.

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