August 2, 2013

Pilgrim's Wilderness by Tom Kizzia



Pilgrim's Wilderness by Tom Kizzia
Publisher: Crown Publishing
Publication Date: July 2013
Categories: Nonfiction, Government, Religion, Alaska

Description:

The Pilgrim Family
When Papa Pilgrim appeared in the Alaska frontier outpost of McCarthy with his wife and fifteen children in tow, his new neighbors had little idea of the trouble to come.  The Pilgrim Family presented themselves as a shining example of the homespun Christian ideal, with their proud piety and beautiful old-timey music, but their true story ran dark and deep.  Within weeks, Papa had bulldozed a road through the mountains to the new family home at an abandoned copper mine, sparking a tense confrontation with the National Park Service and forcing his ghost town neighbors to take sides in an ever-more volatile battle over where a citizen’s rights end and the government’s power begins.

In Pilgrim’s Wilderness, veteran Alaska journalist Tom Kizzia unfolds the remarkable, at times harrowing, story of a charismatic spinner of American myths who was not what he seemed, the townspeople caught in his thrall, and the family he brought to the brink of ruin.  As Kizzia discovered, Papa Pilgrim was in fact the son of a rich Texas family with ties to Hoover’s FBI and strange, oblique connections to the Kennedy assassination and the movie stars of Easy Rider.  And as his fight with the government in Alaska 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, 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.

My Thoughts:

Tom Kizzia
It's understandable that the people of McCarthy were taken in by this family at first. The music, the adorable children, the folksy home-spun style and Christianity would have endeared them to almost anyone. When the family thumbed their noses at the National Park Service they charmed people even more. They were in a place where conservative politics ruled and no one wanted to be told how to conduct themselves. 

It wasn't long, however, before cracks appeared in the facade of this "perfect" family. The nose-thumbing at the government became a little extreme. Sides were taken, scathing articles were written, and the residents of McCarthy found themselves in the middle between the NPS and the Pilgrim family.

Tom Kizzia masterfully explores the bizarre history of Papa Pilgrim in this book. His love for the area is obvious and the time he spent with the people in this story is evident. Pilgrim's Wilderness is fascinating, dark, and true. Once I started reading this I didn't want to stop. 

Truth can be stranger than fiction. I don't know if I've ever read another book that proved that old adage in quite the same way. 

20 comments:

  1. I've never heard of this book, but it looks intriguing. I need to read more non-fiction so I may have to give this book a try.

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    1. If you're looking for an engaging nonfiction you can't go wrong with this one!

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  2. I was so surprised by this one and couldn't believe some of the crazy connections (like all the JFK stuff!). I just love random little corners of the world like this family, they always end up being so fascinating.

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    1. Thank you for bringing this one to my attention! I loved this book. I wonder how the family members are doing now.

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  3. This looks great...yet another book for the TBR list!

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    1. It's super Melinda! I do hope you get to it and enjoy it :)

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  4. Did he actually go around calling himself Papa Pilgrim? Cause I feel like that should've been a giant red flag right there!

    People be crazy :-P

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    1. Yes he did!! Ha ha ha, thanks for the laugh this morning. I'm a chuckling fool at your comment ;)

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  5. What a strange story! I am always impressed at all the non-fiction you find time to read. :)

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    1. A very strange tale indeed. Thanks! I love me some nonfic! :D

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  6. The more nonfiction I read the more I want to read. This one sounds fascinating!

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    1. Yes Nan! That's exactly how nonfiction works for me as well. :D It's my favorite thing to read :)

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  7. Cracks in a perfect facade???? Always makes a book interesting!

    -Rebecca @ Love at First Book

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    1. This book is extremely fascinating! This family..whew. Bat shit crazy much? ;)

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  8. I rarely read nonfiction! Glad you found it to be unputdownable :)

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    1. Nonfiction is the BEST :D It really was...complete page turner!

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  9. I totally agree, truth can be stranger than fiction. This sounds really good and it looks like something that would be a reality show on the History channel.

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    1. If I didn't know this was true I wouldn't believe it ;) It's a GREAT book!

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  10. Ah, religious zealots pissing off their neighbors. THIS is what I was hoping for when I read Amity & Sorrow!

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    1. YES!! You'll get that with this one for sure. This is the real deal.

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