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"Cathedral of the Wild "is Varty's memoir of his life in this exquisite and vast refuge. At Londolozi, Varty gained the confidence that emerges from living in Africa. "We came out strong and largely unafraid of life," he writes, "with the full knowledge of its dangers." It was there that young Boyd and his equally adventurous sister learned to track animals, raised leopard and lion cubs, followed their larger-than-life uncle on his many adventures filming wildlife, and became one with the land. Varty survived a harrowing black mamba encounter, a debilitating bout with malaria, even a vicious crocodile attack, but his biggest challenge was a personal crisis of purpose. An intense spiritual quest takes him across the globe and back again--to reconnect with nature and "rediscover the track."
"Cathedral of the Wild" is a story of transformation that inspires a great appreciation for the beauty and order of the natural world. With conviction, hope, and humor, Varty makes a passionate claim for the power of the wild to restore the human spirit.
Praise for "Cathedral of the Wild"
"Extremely touching . . . a book about growth and hope."--"The New York Times"
"It made me cry with its hard-won truths about human and animal nature. . . . Both funny and deeply moving, this book belongs on the shelf of everyone who seeks healing in wilderness."--"BookPage"
"This is a gorgeous, lyrical, hilarious, important book. Boyd Varty is as brilliant a storyteller and as kind a companion as you'll ever meet. He describes a life that has been spent forging a new way of thinking and being, in harmony with both Nature writ large and the human nature that is you. Read this and you may find yourself instinctively beginning to heal old wounds: in yourself, in others, and just maybe in the cathedral of the wild that is our true home."--Martha Beck, author of "Finding Your Own North Star"
""Cathedral of the Wild" is the captivating story of the joyful, occasionally terrifying, but always interesting life of Boyd Varty. It is also a tale of healing, and of one family's passion to restore our broken connection to nature. Be prepared to fall in love with Varty, his sister, his parents, his uncle, the ideals they fiercely hold to protect the African bush, and the wild animals and people that surround them. With his campfire wit and poet's ear, Varty is a wonderful new voice in adventure writing."--Susan Casey, author of "The Wave: In Pursuit of the Rogues, Freaks, and Giants of the Ocean
"From the first chapter of "Cathedral of the Wild, " Boyd Varty's South Africa grabs your heart, rather like the giant mamba he encountered as a boy. The deadly snake moved on, but Varty's stories stick."--Richard Louv, author of "Last Child in the Woods "and" The Nature Principle"
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2013-12-02
- Reviewer: Staff
Against one of the most picturesque locales in South Africa—the scenic Londolozi Game Reserve—Varty rethinks family traditions and changing social mores in this intense, insightful memoir that brings together several wise observations about the relationship between nature and humanity. The power of storytelling, Varty writes, is the blood tie that links his great-grandfather who started the reserve as a hunting ground over eight decades ago, and his father, Dave, who established the lush acreage into a nature preserve in 1973. This is more than a tame conservation story of lionesses, leopards, and elephants, but rather a transformative social awakening of Varty’s father and his confidante, Uncle John, of the racist apartheid policies following the bloody 1976 Soweto riots. Some of the most significant scenes in the book involve anti-apartheid activist Nelson Mandela who, following his lengthy prison stint, went to the reserve to rest and conduct terse phone talks with DeKlerk, the president of South Africa. Varty faces his own trials, overcoming a brutal crocodile assault that leaves him questioning his purpose, leading to a spiritual renewal that elevates this memoir above the usual wilderness narrative. (Mar.)
In love with the natural world
It’s hard to know whether to call Boyd Varty’s Cathedral of the Wild a memoir, a true adventure story or a self-help book. All I know is that it made me cry with its hard-won truths about human and animal nature, distilled by Varty from his experiences living on Londolozi, the game reserve his family runs in South Africa.
Londolozi began in 1926 when Varty’s great-grandfather bought the land to use as a hunting destination; when the land passed to Varty’s father and uncle, they began transforming it into a game conservation area. During South Africa’s apartheid era, Londolozi stood out as a place of unity and respect for all people, and it was where Nelson Mandela went to recuperate in 1990 after his imprisonment. It continues to operate today as a safari destination.
The campfire stories Varty recounts of a childhood in the bush are by turns hilarious and harrowing. There’s the deadly black mamba snake slithering over young Boyd’s legs; he’s pounced on by an overenthusiastic young lion; he learns to drive a Land Rover at age 10 while his Uncle John shoots video footage of a charging elephant: experiences that taught Boyd how to keep calm and carry on in a crisis.
The biggest threat to Varty’s family, however, comes not from wild animals but from desperate humans. A violent home invasion in Johannesburg traumatizes the family profoundly and prompts 18-year-old Boyd to leave Africa in search of healing. His quest takes him from Australia to India to the South American rain forest and finally, to a Native-American healing ceremony in Arizona. There he reconnects with his family’s core work: bringing urbanized and hurting people back to a relationship with animals and nature.
Returning to Africa is a journey home for Varty, a path he continues to walk today with his family at the Londolozi game reserve. Reading this book takes the reader on a similar journey, reminding us that our true home is in nature. Both funny and deeply moving, this book belongs on the shelf of everyone who seeks healing in wilderness.