Saturday, October 12, 2013


Author:  Tom Kizzia
Genre:  Non-Fiction, Standalone
Published:  2013
Personal Rating:  2/5 (not enjoyable)
Format/Narrator:  Book & Audiobook /
Fred Berman
Yearly Count:  83

From the Book Cover:
Into the Wild meets Helter Skelter in this riveting true story of a modern-day homesteading family in the deepest reaches of the Alaskan wilderness – and of the chilling secrets of its maniacal, spellbinding patriarch.

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.

 I was elated when I was offered this book (which came to me as a beautiful hardcover with raw edges), because I was interested in reading it from the minute I saw it.  Much of the contents intrigued me, and I knew it'd be a perfect fit.  To my dismay, I was wrong.  

The entire first half of the book is about a variety of topics, but mainly focused on Alaska's history and government stuff regarding miscellaneous National Parks rules and regulations.  It was so haphazard and confusing as to who, where, when and why that I ended up not caring about any of it.  The Hale family was only mentioned sporadically in the first half for a few lines or at most a paragraph and the who, where and when was confusing with them, as well.  If it wasn't for the audiobook to keep plugging away, I would have been done.  

The second half of the book turned towards the Hale family, and we got to know them - a little.  (I picked up the book at this point.)  Unfortunately, I anticipated a totally different book, so even what we did learn wasn't what I was expecting.  I felt the details were just facts and not what actual human beings experienced.  It was missing emotion and general connection.  This book was a big disappointment for me, but like I mentioned, I love the actual book.  It has a map and pictures that introduce each chapter.


My thanks go to Jessica Prudhomme from Crown Publishing Group for providing me with this book.


  1. I liked this more than you did but did find it overburdened with unnecessary details.

    1. Bermudaonion ~ I'm STILL disappointed. I was hoping for a terrific read. :(


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