"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
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.