Blogged at River City Reading
Tom Kizzia's forthcoming book, Pilgrim's Wilderness: A Story of Faith and Madness on the Alaska Frontier, recounts the story of Papa Pilgrim, who set up an ideal Christian homestead with his wife and fifteen children in the small town of McCarthy, Alaska. Initially welcomed to Alaska's remote wilderness by those in the area for their gentle manner and charming musical ability, the Pilgrim family soon begins to divide the community as they begin clashing with the National Park Service over their property rights.
Tom Kizzia's time living in McCarthy allows him to uncover Papa Pilgrim's past as Robert Allen Hale, a Texas teenager with a surprisingly tangled history, while also getting close enough to the family to sense their hidden turmoil. As the family's struggle with the government grows, cracks in their once solid foundation reveal the years of controlling abuse Papa Pilgrim has used to keep them under his thumb.
Fascinating from dozens of angles, Pilgrim's Wilderness starts as a lens into extreme Christianity, environmentalism and government property rights. However, the book soon morphs to examine the rigid hold that a charismatic, but crazed, storyteller can have on a group and the trail of damage he can leave behind.