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What makes a man turn his back on society? What makes him return?

For ten years a man calling himself Will Power lived in near-total isolation in northern New South Wales, foraging for food, eating bats and occasionally trading for produce.

But who was this mysterious man who roamed the forest and knew all of its secrets and riddles? Some people thought he might be Jesus. Others feared he was a more sinister figure.
The truth was that he was neither miraculous nor malevolent, but he was, most certainly, gifted. And when he finally emerged from the forest, emaciated and close to death, he was determined to reclaim his real name and ‘give society another chance’.

Today, Dr Gregory Peel Smith, who left school at the age of fourteen, has a PhD and teaches in the Social Sciences at university. His profoundly touching and uplifting memoir is at once a unique insight into how far off track a life can go and powerful reminder that we can all find our way back if we pause for a moment in the heart of the forest.

Out of the Forest

As seen on Australian Story. Watch the episode now

Formats & editions

  • Trade Paperback

    9780143785286

    May 28, 2018

    William Heinemann Australia

    304 pages

    RRP $34.99

    Online retailers

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    Or

    Find your local bookstore at booksellers.org.au

  • EBook

    9780143785293

    May 28, 2018

    Random House Australia

    304 pages

    Online retailers

    • iBooks
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  • Audio Download

    9780143792642

    May 28, 2018

    Penguin Random House Australia Audio

    RRP $27.99

    Online retailers

    • Audible
    • Google Play

Extract

1

Tamworth

When I was a little boy I had a recurring nightmare about a huge ball. The damned thing would chase me through whatever dreamscape I happened to be trapped in and no matter how fast I ran, I could never get far enough ahead to feel safe. I was always on the brink of being crushed.

As is so often the way, my dreams simply reflected my waking anxiety. According to my mother I was two years old when my father picked me up by one foot and flung me head-first into the lounge-room wall. My left eardrum ruptured and I temporarily lost hearing in my right side, too. At least that’s how Mum told the story – I was too young to remember.

Whether it happened or not, the salient thing about that nugget of Smith family history is that an act of brutality against a toddler fitted so easily into our overall story of abuse and dysfunction. Maybe it was an exaggeration, perhaps it was a bitter wife’s tale, or maybe it happened exactly the way Mum described, but something bad happened to my head. Today I wear a hearing aid in my left ear as proof.

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