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

Pilgrim's Wilderness: A True Story of Faith and Madness on the Alaska Frontier
Title : Pilgrim's Wilderness: A True Story of Faith and Madness on the Alaska Frontier
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780307587848
Language : English
Format Type : ebook
Number of Pages : 336

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 troInto 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.


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

  • Caitlin

    Long time Alaska journalist Tom Kizzia is the only person who could have written this in-depth, heart-wrenching book. His years of involvement with the Pilgrim family as a reporter and intimate knowledge of the wilderness community of McCarthy allow him to tell their incredible story without sensationalizing it. Instead, Kizzia brings together the many strands of the Pilgrims' story -- almost unbelievable, but for the fact that they are true -- and recounts their tale with clarity, compassion, a [...]

  • Melki

    With God's direction, he had raised up his children on horseback in New Mexico mountains named for the Blood of Christ. There were fifteen of them, he said. Pilgrim was a trained midwife and had delivered each child at home. They had never seen a television or experienced the temptations of the world. They were schooled at home, tended flocks of sheep in alpine meadows, made their own buckskin, and lived pretty much as their forebears did a century ago, innocent and capable and strong, spinning [...]

  • Kenny Smith

    Great book! I ordered it way back, from Random House, when I received a notice that it would be coming out in a couple of months. When I received my copy and started reading, it kept me up until 2:30AM one night. Actually, I have a cabin in McCarthy and spend my summers there. We live in Anchorage but I have a long history with Kennecott and McCarthy, being almost born there. I knew Pilgrim but didn't really care for him so I stayed away, primarily due his manipulative nature with scripture. I d [...]

  • Bonnie Brody

    Alaska tends to attract eccentric people. It's a frontier and there are communities that are actually the end of the road. To go further, one must traverse rivers, streams, mountains and brush - all without roads or regular access. It happened in 2002 that a man calling himself Papa Pilgrim arrived in McCarthy, Alaska with his wife and thirteen children. McCarthy, a very small community in the summer and a nearly empty community in the winter is, indeed, the end of the road and the entrance to t [...]

  • Becky

    I confess, I'm a sucker for stories about crazy people, religious nuts, large families, and counter-cultural experiments gone bad. Also, the villain of this tale (Papa Pilgrim) began life in a prominent family in my hometown, which always makes things interesting. The story is compelling and the writing and research seems good. There's a bit of a cautionary tale here about using real people as symbols for some political cause; people are generally messier than we want to make them with our pat e [...]

  • Heather Fineisen

    "Maybe we are brainwashed. How would we know?"What is Pilgrim's Wilderness? A true crime. A memoir. An adventure. An Alaskan History. Environmental thriller. Love Story. Cult nightmare. I could go on. It is hard to describe a book that takes a bible-spouting father calling himself 'Pilgrim' with an almost Forrest Gump-like brush with historical figures from John F. Kennedy to Sarah Palin as he and his family of followers live off the land in the great state of Alaska. This is not a predictable s [...]

  • Scott

    I expected more from this book. Into The Wild meets Helter Skeltert so much. The insight into the Alaskan mindset and how they related to each other, the National Parks service and the environmentalists was very interesting. It's funny how alliances are made and broken over the passage of time.The Pilgrim family story was eye opening at first, but rather predictable towards the end. I felt bad for so many individuals in this tale.The story is worth knowing and it makes you want to go to McCarthy [...]

  • Lea

    Thoroughly researched and well written account of one family's life in the Alaskan wilderness -- with a disturbing and unsavory twist to the tale. This one literally made my stomach hurt while I was reading it -- the author does a skillful job of peppering the story with clues about what was coming, while still not giving anything away until later. I really didn't know anything about this book before I started reading it, and I expected the story to go in an entirely different direction. I don't [...]

  • leslie beaird

    Oh my GOSH!!! This book is AWFUL!!! I read 50 pages .en went 50 more. I kept reading, but I can't go on. There is no building up of the characters.you never "connect" with anyoneople come and go with little snippets of information No story ever builds up!!! I READ Helter Skelter and truly enjoyed it. This book comes no where near in comparison.I am so puzzled at all the 5 starsybe it's me? I just don't get it.I could not get into the rhythm of this bookI was so excited to read it and I am SO DIS [...]

  • Melissa Jones

    Silly of me, a person not interested in Alaskan history to read a non-fiction book about Alaska. I was more interested in the sociopathic father and his family. That being said, I would have liked to get a little more in depth into the family drama and a little less with the historical facts. That's just me. But, if you are a reader who likes all of those components, you are sure to rate this a four or five.

  • Karen

    I don't know if it makes me a voyeur, but I found this book fascinating and difficult to put down! I was sent this book by the First Reads giveaway, and I couldn't wait to get it, and couldn't wait to start it once it arrived. Tom Kizzia has done a remarkable job in writing this must read book, weaving together the various plots and subplots into a story that must fall into the category of "You can't make this shit up"!A narcissistic Jesus freak/hippie/back to nature devotee whose origins were f [...]

  • Dick Reynolds

    Papa and Kurina Rose Pilgrim arrived at the Alaskan town of McCarthy in 2002 with their fifteen children in tow. To all outward appearances, the family looked like they’d thrive in the Wrangell Mountain wilderness and be an asset to the community. The entire Pilgrim family performed an impromptu program of old-timey country music to show their appreciation for their warm welcome. The Pilgrims had come to Alaska in search of land and space where they could live their lives and not be bothered [...]

  • Cher

    3.5 stars - It was really good.A fascinating true story that takes a significant plot twist in the middle making it almost feel like two separate books about two different subjects. The first half deals with Hale's interesting start to life and his ties to Fort Worth and TCU (hitting close to home for this Texas girl). From there you find yourself pulling for the rugged pioneer and his large family as they try to homestead in the brutal environment of Alaska. How dare big government infringe on [...]

  • CiderandRedRot

    3.5 StarsQuestion: is a cult still a cult if the only members are immediate blood relations? (Answer: Probably?) It is not surprising to learn that Bobby Hale (aka Sunstar aka Papa Pilgrim), the manipulative hermit who moved his brood of god-fearing sons & daughters from the mountains of New Mexico to one of the most remote regions of Alaska, was briefly an associate of Charles Manson. Even though Hale went an opposite route, interpreting and perverting biblical scripture for his own abusive [...]

  • Alma Gravel

    Ever read a true story and think "those people could not possibly exist"? This is that story - I've seen pieces of this during my life - "overbearing father", "mother unable to connect with the reality of what was happening in her life (and that of her children)", "townspeople in survival mode embracing an ideal because they have projected their own values on the person presenting the ideal". This story starts with the subject of the book marrying and then killing John Connally's daughter (yes, [...]

  • Susan (aka Just My Op)

    I'm not generally a violent person, but if I found myself standing in front of Robert Hale, the self-named Papa Pilgrim, I would have been tempted to slap him silly at the very least. Not a very Christian attitude? Well, that's okay. If you are Papa Pilgrim, you create your own self-serving vision of Christianity.This story is fascinating and at the same time, horrifying and disgusting. The man: a violent megalomaniac, a pervert, a thief, a suspected murderer, and a monster. A self-appointed god [...]

  • Melissa

    I’m all for stories about crazy coots who move to Alaska to be all self-sufficient & eccentric (in fact, I long to be such a person myself someday), but this was a good deal darker that I expected. It’s pretty engaging to read about the fight between Papa Pilgrim, his wife, their fifteen children, and that dastardly Parks Service, but oh my, things certainly take a turn for the appalling when the reader learns what’s really been going on in that cabin. (view spoiler)[“As Country Rose [...]

  • Ariel

    Updated: Blasted through this book this weekend. It was interesting, highly-readable, and a good primer on some of the land politics at work in contemporary Alaska - particularly around the Wrangell St. Elias National Park. Also a compelling picture of small-town life - but not just any small town, one that's essentially comprised of people from "elsewhere" that have formed a uniquely open-minded yet isolated community. Oh, and the portrait of the unusual Pilgrim family does a great job of teasi [...]

  • Catherine

    I love these "truth is stranger than fiction" accounts -- and in this case, the truth is seriously whackadoodle. "Papa Pilgrim," AKA "Preacher Bob" and "Sunstar," and actually named Robert Allen Hale, lived several lifetimes worth of adventure and pure crazy. Tom Kizzia, an Alaskan journalist who reported on the events as they happened, put the whole story together interviewing the Hale family, other key players, relatives, and people from their past. I wasn't entirely satisfied with the way he [...]

  • Donna

    This book is true crime. Because this book took place in Alaska, I was interested in it because that is where I spent the first 28 years of my life. It is about people (namely a very large family with 15 children) that my mom would call "crack pots" which might mean something totally different today. But just let me just say, Alaska attracts many people like this. Some people move there to escape whatever they are running from, expecting wild west type freedom because this state is so vast. This [...]

  • Koren

    This book is similar to some books I have read about Mormon cults, but these people weren't Mormons. The father is an aging hippie (well, I guess all hippies are aging, aren't we!) who ends up taking his wife and 14 children to the forest in Alaska, which is actually a national park. He thinks he can do whatever he wants. He cuts down trees and finds a bulldozer so he can build roads and thumbs his nose at the government. But his downfall is how abusive he is to his family. They dress like they [...]

  • Bethany Zimp

    I tore through this book as it was exactly my style of reading. The craziness fascinates me (seriously, how do mentally ill brains work) and the back history was bizarre (really, FBI, Fort Worth, JFK?). I hated seeing what happened to the family and how others used the children instead of helped (hello, blinded small town and GOP who put an ILLITERATE brainwashed-victim on the ticket). The author did a nice job of researching, writing, and trying to stay objective with what could have been very [...]

  • Bruce

    Tom Kizzia, an Alaskan investigative reporter, published this book in 2013. It is the account of the Pilgrim family in McCarthy, Alaska, during this current century’s first decade. I was intrigued to read the book because I returned from McCarthy less than a week ago, a visit that left me puzzled about the history of the area and the attitudes of many residents toward the federal government.Robert Hale was a Texan with a troubled past even before he married his fourth wife by whom he fathered [...]

  • Sue

    This book is the author's account of his own experiences in the wilds of Alaska, his first-hand exposure to the family in question, and a scary indictment of the sort of religious extremism that seems to be increasingly common in the United States, bred from the "rugged individualism" mentality. The "Pilgrim" family was a textbook example of how a charismatic leader/father used mental and physical abuse, bullying tactics, extreme censorship and isolation, emotional manipulation, and charm (when [...]

  • Ted

    Outstanding book, whether you live in Alaska or not. A fascinating story that examines the dark side of faith gone too far and how it can be welded by bad people over others. Also examines the property rights movement, along with how people can be manipulated. Highly recommend this - great and fast read!

  • Cindy

    While this book was very interesting and the author did good research, I felt it was written in a very boring manner. He did try to remain professional toward an evil man and I didn't really feel it was bias. His writing skills are good in terms of grammar, but it read like a 200 page article in the Times.

  • Mustang

    Well done! Mr. Kizzia has done a remarkable job of blending facts, stories, and horrific family details. It is a must read for those in Alaska who remember the Papa Pilgrim story or for those who want to learn about how family dynamics are not always for the better.

  • Julia

    The fascinating contradictions of a "frontier family" who can barely care for themselves, for a Christian family that steals, and for a anti-government family who rages against the National Park Service but happily accepts their Alaska Permanent Fund money. As has been noted, an interesting read for people who liked Jon Krakauer's books, for example.

  • Mark Yellis

    Well written book of terror within a family. The family is bizarre and twisted but seems oddly fundamentally Christian to the core. It is what happens behind the scenes that is shocking. At first I identified the father and some of the large family as someone I know in Maine. However as I quickly discovered, the horror within was more than I could imagine. Sadly this is probably not a "one-off" but probably something that happens with some regularity within this collective group of people. Left [...]

  • Denny

    Not having heard of Robert Allen Hale a.k.a. Papa Pilgrim or of author Tom Kizzia before, I discovered Pilgrim's Wilderness while browsing my local library's audiobook shelves for something new to consume during my daily 90-minute commute. Even though stories of lawbreaking, abusive, destructive, self-righteous, hypocritical, megalomaniacal, socio- or psychopathic, fundamentalist and/or zealously religious, too often but not always conservative Christian evangelical Biblical literalists fill me [...]