Before I dive into this book review, I’ll just pause for a sec so you can go buy it. Right now. It’s that fabulous.
Did you buy it? OK, good. Let’s talk about the book, shall we?
Cathedral of the Wild reads like a series of essays strung together. Every chapter could stand on its own. It’s in loose chronological order, walking us through Varty’s unconventional childhood on a game reserve, Londolozi, in South Africa. He writes in a tongue-in-cheek style that retells death-defying adventures with a sense of humor.
The first two-thirds of the book go into great detail about the formation of the game reserve and all the of animals who call that space home. The chapter on elephants is utterly astounding. But when you hit that last third, you hit on the real message of the book: His family and upbringing has started to seem idyllic – they’re living in Eden and jaunting around the world when they feel the travel itch – but they’re slammed on all sides all at once. Deaths, professional setbacks, personal attacks, it all happens within a short period of time, leaving Varty feeling lost and unmoored in place and time.
The last third tracks his journey from being lost to coming home. The first 75% of the book is a lot of “showing” and the last 25% is mostly “telling.” It moves at a slower pace because of that technique change.
But, his message resounds. The book made me laugh and cry – almost in equal measure – and left me feeling inspired to get back out into nature. I highly recommend Cathedral of the Wild.