Pilgrim's Wilderness: A True Story of Faith and Madness on the Alaska Frontier

Pilgrim's Wilderness: A True Story of Faith and Madness on the Alaska Frontier

by Tom Kizzia
4.2 35

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Pilgrim's Wilderness: A True Story of Faith and Madness on the Alaska Frontier 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 35 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am writing this comment regarding Tom Kizzia’s book, “ Pilgrim’s Wilderness” from the perspective of a direct family member. I believe this story of my Dad’s life should have died with him and not been encouraged to go on. My fear would be that his life encourages people to do the wrong thing. I lived this life with him and I believe it should never have been portrayed to the public like it has been done in this book. Though he was my father and I respect him for that role he did a lot of hurt to a lot of people, mainly his family. Is there a reason why the hurt has to be relived? The book is not what it appears to be on the front cover, one big happy family. I would be careful to not have your children read it. It’s content is to be equaled with X – rated material.  
horsegallin More than 1 year ago
I remember reading some of the newspaper accounts back when the Pilgrim Family first came to McCarthy. Since I personally know some of the Hales, I always wondered how they found the courage to finally speak out against their father, and set their family free from his tyranny and abuse. This book does a great job of answering a lot of those questions. Good read!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Papa Pilgrim kept his family under close control by the use of his version of Christianity and violence, even incest. It is fascinating and frightening but it is hard to stop reading it. Alas, it is all true. If you like books like true crime novels; if you like reading outdoor adventure stories; then this book is for you. There is not a boring page to be found.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A Harrowing Frontier Tale of the Perverse Pilgrim Clan Kizzia, in this beautifully written piece of nonfiction, captures the essence of the perverse Pilgrim clan that has indelibly marked Alaska and it no doubt will be remembered in tales of mythic proportion. Papa Pilgrim along with his wife and fifteen children sold themselves as a moralistic pack of holy-rollers when they first moved to Alaska; however, that façade soon vanished. The family Patriarch, calling himself Papa Pilgrim, whose previous pregnant wife was found mysteriously shot in the head, had a less than upright past. After settling in McCarthy, Alaska, Papa Pilgrim decided to bulldoze a road into a state park and setup a meager one-room homestead there much to the government’s and neighbors’ dismay. In harmony with outward unrest that the Pilgrim homestead created, much was amiss within it. Pilgrim’s children were illiterate and sexually abused—many argue whether they were hostages or proud followers of their patriarch. In a land of seemingly endless frontier and self-invention, Papa Pilgrim pushed to the limits and ignited endless conflicts. Kizzia’s true account is one that captures the harrowing results of perverted libertarianism. A sense of place and landscape plays an integral role in this page-turner, as Alaska is in many ways a final frontier. If you enjoy true crime or tales of the more remote reaches of civilization, I recommend this book. Another engrossing account of life in the cold corners of the earth is Peter Freuchen’s Arctic Adventure, in which Freuchen details his assimilation into Inuit life and culture.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I was so impressed with this book and the research Tom Kizzia did for it that I sent the author a note via FaceBook. He was meticulous and so familiar with this part of Alaska and all the folks involved that even though it read almost like a page-turning novel, I knew it was a true story. This should be read by anyone interested in the psychology of families, and how a person could be so controlling and cruel to his own relatives. And how they accepted that as a way of life. It was amazing.
Twink More than 1 year ago
Truth is many times, much stranger than fiction. Very true in the case of Pilgrim's Wilderness by Tom Kizzia. I've always thought that I was born too late - when I was younger, I often daydreamed of a cabin in the middle of the woods and self sufficiency. (Instead I got a job as a living history museum interpreter and played Little House in the Big Woods for many years.) When Papa Pilgrim showed up in the remote town of McCarthy, Alaska with his wife and fifteen children in tow, the residents, although initially wary of newcomers, welcomed them to their community. Pilgrim seemed to want nothing more than to live in peace and practice his Christian values on his newly purchased plot of land within the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park. Initially everyone enjoys the 'old-timey' nature of the family, their music and Christian values. But that original welcome soon starts to show cracks and eventually divides the town. Pilgrim decides to bulldoze a road through the park, the spark that ignites his 'war' with the National Park Service. The actions of the family don't always match the preaching done by Papa. Papa is a master manipulator, able to twist the scriptures to suit his purpose. And Papa? Well, he's twisted as well. The outward appearance of the family belies the terror he inflicts on his wife and children. (The children range from late twenties to a newborn.) Things escalate, not just with the NPS, but within the cabin housing the Pilgrims. The older children begin to question their lives, their faith and their Papa...... Kizzia is an Alaskan journalist and covered the story as it unfolded. In Pilgrim's Wilderness, he has expanded on those articles with interviews from townsfolk, detractors and supporters, with Pilgrim himself and later with some other family members. He investigates, digs further and uncovers and exposes the man who was born Robert Hale. Again, truth is stranger that fiction - some of it just had me shaking my head in disbelief. Kizzia has a family cabin in McCarthy as well. His familiarity with the area and the issues truly enhanced his account. Although there are some disturbing (okay a lot disturbing) parts of the story, Kizzia handles it all in a fair and true manner, without delving into lurid or tabloid like descriptions. I was riveted from first page - Kizzia opens the book with a gut wrenching, white knuckle prologue -to last, caught up in the story of the madness that was Papa Pilgrim and the fate of his family. (And after the last page was turned - I headed to the computer to follow up) Pilgrim's Wilderness also explores the politics of land use, from many points of view. Pilgrim's Wilderness has been labeled true crime, not a genre I really like. However this book is an exception. Five stars for this reader.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I was living in Alaska when much of this story occurred and remember the emotions and opinions that were frequently expressed when Alaskans gathered. What a tragic life these children and their mother endured. How they survived is amazing and shows just how strong the human spirit is. The author did a good job of describing the Alaskan wilderness and the subsistence lifestyle that is embraced by many of the citizens there. The start was a little slow, and I had to plow through the back story, but the rest of the read was well worth the time.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Well-written story of an extremely disturbing man who wields his religion against his family and neighbors as it serves his purpose. It also serves to give the reader insight into the Alaska frontier mentality that served his evil purposes. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Wow. Very interesting. I couldn't put it down. Within 24 hrs I read it from the first page to the last. Very realistic description of how life could be like if everything went to h..l. the characters were well flushed out. The descriptions of the surroundings were so vivid I had a movie playing in my head the whole time. A great first novel for this author. I look forward to more.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is a well balanced look at environmental issues. The author gives both sides of the expanding role of govenment interference of land management. He allows the reader to decide. This well written book does focus on one very evil man who abused his family. Another excellent book is the histrical novel, "The Partisan," written by William Jarvis. It is currently only 99cents on the Nook right now. It ls based on true facts during World War II; it has strong male and female characters as well as a truly evil, abusive viiian. Both books are excellent and deserve A++++++
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Factual, fair account of a family's development from blind submission to their father's hypocritical authority to freedom to choose their own values. In their pursuit of a primitive lifestyle the Pilgrim family became the eye of a rising storm between the National Park Service and Alaskan landholders. This book will engage the reader on a psychological, religious, and a political level, affording much food for thought. It caused me to examine my personal growth from a wilderness hippie in the 70's to an assimilated teacher in mainstream society.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I felt the book took a little while to get to the main plot of the story,yet it remained interesting throughout, and the ending was fitting for the story. Good book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A terrific read, I could hardly put it down. I would highly recommend it
TCTG More than 1 year ago
I love non fiction and this is a real page turner! I couldn't put it down! TCTG
runnergirlLK More than 1 year ago
This is one of the best books I have read in a long time.  I like true stories, and I found this one to be amazing, interesting, and horrifying simultaneously.  The author "had me" from Page 1.  The religious fanaticism reminds me of Krakauer's "Under the Banner of Heaven" (another great book); however,  the two books are different but still tell compelling stories.  I have never been to Alaska, and the descriptions were great, so I felt Alaska itself was almost like another character in the book.  I did not buy the Nook book; instead, I borrowed the ePub version from my library and read it on my Nook.  I finished the book in 2 days. Afterwards, I did more research on the Internet and read Tom Kizzia's "Alaska Dispatch News" 06/12/13 article about Robert Hale and his death, Mark Kirby's "Outside Magazine" article, and a wikipedia entry.  HIGHLY recommend this book!  
DebSimon More than 1 year ago
A story that needed to be told. It is estimated that 4% of the population is a psychopath or sociopath, which equates to 1 out of 25 people you run into each day is without conscious and believes life is nothing but a game of chess and the rest of us are simply their pawns. This book is an classic illustration of an extreme case, it demonstrates the incredible importance of the ability to recognize people who have no regrets or feelings yet are most charismatic of actors able to manipulate with ease and shed crocodile tears. We all must be on the look out ready to lend a hand to those who have fallen victim and need rescued from cunning, calculated, demented, demonic soulless monsters such as Mr. Robert Allen Hale. I hope that this true life tale of wickedness is made into a movie. My prayers go out to his countless victims.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Subject matter makes this book suitable for adults. A great book which demonstrates the crazed lunancy of Robert Hale. Too bad he died. He deserved prison for the rest of his life. May his family continue to find peace and healing.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Interesting story of a man who was able to get his family and neighbors to believe in his religious beliefs, until it became violent for his wife and children.
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