Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Pilgrim's Wilderness by Tom Kizzia

Pilgrim'sWilderness: A True Story of Faith and Madness on the Alaska Frontier, Tom Kizzia. New York: Crown Publishers/ Random House, Inc., 2013. e-book, 285 pps.

     Robert Hale was a sick dude. To look at him and his large family, the casual observer might have concentrated on the Christian message that he was presenting and the apparent wholesomeness of his lifestyle. 

     But appearances can be deceiving. Behind close doors, his wife and children suffered. "Papa Pilgrim" was quick with the insults and quick with the belt. There was physical abuse to be sure. And incest. Some extreme drinking on the part of "Papa." The expectation that his wife and his children would jump whenever he ordered them around. His brood did exactly as instructed or consequences would be dire.

       The family had relocated to Alaska after bits of trouble in other places. They lived on a mountain outside of McCarthy. At first the people of McCarthy welcomed the Pilgrim family. They sang and played musical instruments. That changed.

sapphoq reviews says: Robert Hale was a fundamentalist Christian with a nasty twist. He was his own church. He was also mean. Pilgrim's Wilderness lays out the story of the Hale family against the backdrop of the history of McCarthy, Alaska. Another fundamentalist Christian family living in the Alaska frontier [whose dad was not mean and the center of his own cult] provided rescue. The children were able to get out. They did not abandon their Christian faith. They did come to understand that the actions of their "Papa" were not Christ-like. I wish every one of them happiness and peace.
     For those adults who are interested in the study of familial religious cults and dysfunctional families as well as for those who like bits of Alaskan history with their biographies, highly recommended.

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