One morning at breakfast, while gawking at his phone and feeling increasingly disconnected from family and everything else of importance in his world, it strikes writer Bruce Kirkby: this isn’t how he wants to live.
Within days, plans begin to take shape. Bruce, his wife Christine, and their two children—seven-year-old Bodi and three-year-old Taj—will cross the Pacific by container ship, then travel onward through South Korea, China, India and Nepal aboard bus, riverboat and train, eventually traversing the Himalaya by foot. Their destination: a thousand-year-old Buddhist monastery in the remote Zanskar valley, one of the last places where Tibetan Buddhism is still practised freely in its original setting.
Taken into the mud-brick home of a senior lama, Tsering Wangyal, the family spends the summer absorbed by monastery life. In this refuge, where ancient traditions intersect with the modern world, Bruce discovers ways to slow down, to observe and listen, and ultimately, to better understand his son on the autism spectrum—to surrender all expectations and connect with Bodi exactly as he is.
Recounted with wit and humility, Blue Sky Kingdom is an engaging travel memoir as well as a thoughtful exploration of modern distraction, the loss of ancient wisdom, and the challenges and rewards of intercultural friendships.
Blue Sky Kingdom is perfect pandemic reading. Not only does Bruce Kirkby take us far across the world and deep inside a rarely seen culture, but he also allows us an intimate view of his family, all while writing with tender honesty, penetrating insight, and a delightful lack of bravado. And particularly useful when we look up from the page and remember that we haven’t actually left the living room for weeks, he reminds us to breathe, embrace the unfamiliar, and celebrate even the smallest of moments.
I was blown away by the audaciousness of this epic family voyage, desperately wishing I was there with them. Kirkby’s writing offers a vivid exploration of culture, geography and relationships, but also, more urgently, of how we choose to live—and whether that’s possible to change.
Bruce Kirkby’s chronicle of living in a remote Buddhist monastery with his family is by turns hilarious and enchanting. What a beautiful ode to impermanence, to the families we choose and the families we find, and to the complicated wonders of a different, and fast-disappearing, way of life.
Family adventure doesn’t begin to describe what transpires in these pages. Kirkby and his remarkable family have built a bridge between the Rockies and the Himalaya, and in so doing spanned the gap between autism and Buddhism. In addition to being a manifestation of deepest love and devotion, this book is a time-bending journey through a landscape and culture that filled me with envy and sorrow by turns, while showing me things I have never seen described in a lifetime of reading. We are lucky to have someone as brave, generous and open as Bruce Kirkby abroad in the world.
Bruce Kirkby has lived the dream of the modern globe-trotting adventurer: crossing Arabian sand seas, sea-kayaking Iceland and Borneo, traversing Northern Mongolia on horseback. In Blue Sky Kingdom, Kirkby’s wife and two young sons join him for a different kind of journey—to an isolated Buddhist monastery, yes, but also to the elusive and fragile heart of wisdom that we all hope to glimpse in this lifetime. What a heartfelt, lovely and kind book this is.
By any standards, it’s a big adventure to travel the slow way across the world to a remote corner of the Himalaya and live there for months in a spartan Buddhist monastery—but taking young children along ramps it up to another level. Written with zest and clarity, Bruce’s account is compelling, moving, funny and above all honest, sharing hardships and frustrations along with the joys and ultimate rewards.
In an era when countless demands make it increasingly easy to ignore people and engage instead with devices, Blue Sky Kingdom provides a much-needed call back to the physical world.
A rollicking journey, full of insights on cultivating a nourishing, fully present life amidst so much noise and distraction.
Insightful and adventurous, Blue Sky Kingdom offers a road map on how to learn from the world … There is wisdom in this book. Open it and let your imagination soar.
...a timely, heartwarming story of a family’s search for peace away from the din of modern culture. Soul-refreshing reading for armchair travelers and spiritual questers alike.
A breathtaking journey, both geographical and internal, Kirkby’s blending of travelog of an already fascinatingly remote locale and personal family experience is unique and luminous.