by Bruce Kirkby
A warm and unforgettable portrait of a family letting go of the known world to encounter an unfamiliar one filled with rich possibilities and new understandings.
Bruce Kirkby had fallen into a pattern of looking mindlessly at his phone for hours, flipping between emails and social media, ignoring his children and wife and everything alive in his world, when a thought struck him. This wasn’t living; this wasn’t him. This moment of clarity started a chain reaction which ended with a grand plan: he was going to take his wife and two young sons, jump on a freighter and head for the Himalaya.
In Blue Sky Kingdom, we follow Bruce and his family’s remarkable three months journey, where they would end up living amongst the Lamas of Zanskar Valley, a forgotten appendage of the ancient Tibetan empire, and one of the last places on earth where Himalayan Buddhism is still practiced freely in its original setting.
Richly evocative, Blue Sky Kingdom explores the themes of modern distraction and the loss of ancient wisdom coupled with Bruce coming to terms with his elder son’s diagnosis on the Autism Spectrum. Despite the natural wonders all around them at times, Bruce’s experience will strike a chord with any parent—from rushing to catch a train with the whole family to the wonderment and beauty that comes with experience the world anew with your children.
Rounded up to 4.5
I love any story, fiction or non fiction, which involves people disconnecting from social media and turning to a simpler lifestyle, so picking this book up was a no-brainer.
It turned out to be a hugely interesting read. Bruce not only packed himself up, but he also packed his wife, Christine, and their two young sons and took them halfway around the world by boat, train and bus, to a remote and completely unplugged monastery in Tibet. Once there they share a small and basic home with the head Lama. The facilities are so basic as to be almost non-existent and I really admired the family for the way that they adapted to fit in and become as much a part of the community as possible. Some of their experiences are funny or heartwarming, and others are very poignant. What shone through was how beautiful the spirit of the Tibetans is, something I’ve read time and time again.
Another facet to the adventure is how it impacted on their eldest son, Bodi, who is on the autism spectrum. Bruce and his wife were brave to take him out of his routine and honest about their fears over how it would affect him and how he would react. Bodi seemed to flourish in the austere and regimented setting of the monastery and was absorbing small practises, in the natural way that children do, which were good coping mechanisms. I’d love to know how he is doing back in Canada.
I highly recommend this book. It was a fascinating and satisfying read.