by Tom Kizzia
4 stars - a well researched and written account of one man's madness
ALR - Green - While I suspect their many animals were not any better off than the family members themselves, they do not play a major role in the story.
Robert Hale, a.k.a Papa Pilgrim, is a nasty piece of work. No two ways about it. This is a heartbreaking story about how one man can take control of innocent lives for his own twisted means.
Masquerading as a "back to nature" wilderness type guy, Bob Hale takes his family of wife and fifteen children into the Alaskan wilderness. Purportedly to live a Godly life, but really to just carry out his own version of deceit and perversion.
By isolating his family, he is able to raise his children to fear him as well as any outsiders. In particular, he indoctrinates them with fear of any and all authorities.
His Alaskan neighbors originally embrace the family as fellow pioneers, but they slowly change their minds as they are subjected to acts of thievery and harassment.
During the first half of the book, Hale's primary adversary is the Alaskan park service. He is a homesteader in the gigantic Alaskan park lands. A right and a privilege which he scoffs at as he bulldozes through protected lands and intimidates any park official intent on imposing law and order.
Things become very dark indeed during the second half of the book. As his children mature into adults, they begin to question the lifestyle imposed on them. A lifestyle full of beating, torture, intimidation and incest.
The older children eventually escape from his clutches and seek shelter with another local family who provide for them the courage to press charges against Hale, who is ultimately brought to justice. With the help of friends and a surprisingly sympathetic representative of the US government, the Hale children learn to face what happened to them yet still maintain their Christian values and love of God.