Pilgrim's Wilderness

Pilgrim's Wilderness

A True Story of Faith and Madness on the Alaska Frontier

Book - 2013
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Random House, Inc.
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 ofEasy 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.

Baker & Taylor
Documents the story of Robert "Papa Pilgrim" Hale and the antiestablishment family settlement in remote Alaska that was eventually exposed as a cult-like prison where Hale brutalized and isolated his wife and 15 children, describing the torturous abuse endured by the family before his older children escaped and reported Hale to authorities.

& Taylor

Documents the story of Robert "Papa Pilgrim" Hale and the antiestablishment family settlement in remote Alaska that was exposed as a cult-like prison where Hale brutalized and isolated his wife and fifteen children.

Publisher: New York : Crown Publishers, c2013
Edition: 1st ed
ISBN: 9780307587824
Branch Call Number: B HALE 2013
Characteristics: xx, 309 p. : ill., map ; 25 cm


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Sep 08, 2018

A true story about the devil incarnate! This was not an easy read, had to put it down a few times. I was thankful to see, that in the end, the children and their mother were able to stand against the monster, with help from others. A scary, scary book--if you want to see how the devil steals, kills and destroys, read it.

Aug 31, 2018

Very good book, well structured. Really liked the way the story was told.

Jul 26, 2016

Not a fun read. The subtitle suggest this book might be uplifting, but actually it is a reasonably well written tale of an abusive father of a large dysfunctional family. Informative, possibly thought provoking, not heartwarming

Jun 29, 2015

I had to slog through this one. It had a lot of detail where it didn't need to. It reminded me some of Krakauer, but less action/adventure. It is much more interesting and faster-moving towards the end. I liked the way it ended - the author did a great job pulling the story all together at the end. Readers who have ever been to Alaska may appreciate this book more, too. Ironically, it was recommended to me by my father (an avid reader, and an atheist). Worth the read, but not teriffic.

Aug 17, 2014

When Papa Pilgrim appears in tiny McCarthy, Alaska, with his very pregnant wife and 15 kids, at first the neighbors are entranced. They seem the ideal of Christian homespun, and plan to homestead. McCarthy needs more people, so welcomes them. Within weeks, Pilgrim is bulldozing a road that may or may not be on his property line, his sons threaten the townspeople and Park Rangers (his property's in a National Park) who want to check the line and determine the health of the youngest children. Kizzia, a McCarthy native and journalist, digs into the past of the man who calls himself Pilgrim. His research discovers some highly disturbing details in "Pilgrim's" background that account for his retreat to a place where he believes he won't be followed. The story of domestic abuse finally has a happy ending, as one of the daughters has enormous courage, escapes, and tells, though the father has threatened death to any of them who do. Interestingly, Dana Stabenow used this true story in one of her Kate Shugak mysteries. A page turner, though sometimes so disturbing I had to put it down for a bit.

Feb 10, 2014

A sad true story of a father calling himself Pilgrim who ruled his large family (a wife and 15 children) like a cult leader. The story ends up as a horrifying detailed description of family domestic violence. And although he made his family live like pioneers with almost no contact with the outside world, Pilgrim was actually on the periphery of fame, or infamy, twice in his life before the truth of his abuse of his family overshadowed all else. Interesting but depressing story, while in the end uplifting in the hope found by the abused survivors.

Jan 08, 2014

Truth is definitely stranger than fiction. This is a fascinating read of a very disturbed man who wielded unbelievable power over his poor wife and many children in the wilds of Alaska, where no one would defy him. Very well written by a reporter from the Anchorage Daily News. I couldn't put it down, and it still haunts me.

Dec 14, 2013

This is an amazing story that I couldn't put down. I highly recommend it.


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