Excerpt from Blue Sky Kingdom by Bruce Kirkby, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Blue Sky Kingdom

An Epic Family Journey to the Heart of the Himalaya

by Bruce Kirkby

Blue Sky Kingdom by Bruce Kirkby X
Blue Sky Kingdom by Bruce Kirkby
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  • First Published:
    Oct 2020, 352 pages

    Jul 2022, 352 pages


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Jane McCormack
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As I gazed at our sleeping boys—mouths open, dried drool on their cheeks, so perfect, so trusting, so fragile—a fleeting shadow passed inside me. Tomorrow would mark the point of no return. What dangers lay ahead? Was this journey really in their best interests? Or was it fuelled by my own ambitions? I glanced at Christine, but said nothing. I knew she worried too, in her own ways.

Wearing a sweat-dampened tank top, blonde hair tousled, my wife was trying to coerce toothbrushes, baby wipes and hotel shampoo bottles into an uncooperative stuff sack. Sensing my pause, she pointed to the jumble of filmmaking equipment at my feet.

"I really don't think you need that stuff. We are already overloaded. And making a film is just going to be another distraction."

"Yeah, yeah, I know, but ..."

I wasn't about to ditch the film project now. I'd already invested thousands in new equipment—Steadicam, slider rails, wireless microphones—and after training myself to use it, I'd shipped it all to Manali at great effort, with plans to make a documentary about our time at the monastery. Stubbornly, I tried to cram a bulky tripod into an overstuffed duffel, without success.

"Seriously, you should just ship it back home," Christine said. Then she added with a sigh, "I'm sick and tired of cameras."

"This will be different," I promised. "It's only me."

But even as I said it, I knew I'd already asked too much of her.

A crew from the Travel Channel had been following our family since the day we'd left home in Canada twelve weeks earlier, filming us from dusk till dawn. * Most were kids in their twenties with tattoos and nose rings, wearing flat-brimmed ball caps and skateboarding shoes. Selfishly, I had agreed to the television project at the last minute, viewing it as a way to advance my freelance writing and photography career—as well as an opportunity to pay bills during our six-month absence. An introvert by nature, Christine had been lukewarm about the idea from the start. Her greatest concern remained how it might affect our boys.

But the end was nigh. The next day most of the entourage would jet back to Los Angeles, leaving just a skeleton crew to accompany us on foot across the Himalaya. Those stragglers would leave us in peace upon reaching the monastery.

"It's your choice," Christine eventually shrugged. "But I think you should scrap the film stuff and concentrate on our boys."

Half a year earlier and half a world away, in the stillness of a December dawn, I sat between Bodi and Taj at our kitchen table in Kimberley, British Columbia. A scattering of cereal boxes and an empty milk jug lay before us. In the wood stove nearby, a fire crackled to life, and as the house warmed, timbers popped and groaned. Upstairs, Christine remained in bed, exhausted and puffy-eyed—an over-stretched mother clinging to a rare moment of reprieve. Outside, snowflakes the size of butterfly wings spiralled down in darkness.

Absently spooning granola to my mouth, I scrolled through Facebook, my phone casting an eerie blue light over the boys. Of course everything that floated across the screen was trivial, mindless crap. But I kept on digging, driven by the same urge that draws the beachcomber to the ocean, or the gold panner to the river; the eternal hope that somewhere amongst all that crap might lie a treasure.

"DAD!" Bodi screamed, interrupting my trance. "Did you hear a single word I just said?"

"Bo-Bee!" Tiny Taj shouted, stabbing a rubber spoon overhead and spilling Cheerios across fuzzy pyjamas, celebrating fathomless love for an older brother who increasingly ignored him.

Pushing the phone aside, I tucked a strand of hair behind Bodi's ear and kissed his silken cheek. "Tell me again," I whispered.

Painstakingly, Bodi enumerated the distance to every planet in our solar system. The numbers were almost certainly accurate, as Bodi has a mind for such details, but as I listened, I grew aware of a deeper truth—I hadn't heard a word he'd previously said, despite the fact that he was sitting right beside me and despite the fact that he stood among the most precious things in my life.

Excerpted from Blue Sky Kingdom by Bruce Kirkby. Copyright © 2020 by Bruce Kirkby. Excerpted by permission of Pegasus Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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