This witty, engaging and heartfelt new memoir by Peter Meyer is a tour de force of wanderlust. It tells the inspirational true story of growing up ‘wild’ in wildest South Africa, and how our childhoods can and do shape our adult lives.
The Boy from the Wild recounts Meyer’s “charmed” life growing up on the Karkloof Valley Nature Reserve in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. The 1,000-hectare reserve was the brainchild of his late father, James, who set about transforming the site into the world’s first nature-themed amusement park. The result, ‘Safari World’, became an international attraction that could be described as a real-world Jurassic Park.
Meyer’s life in Africa was dramatic from the beginning. Complications at birth almost killed mother and child, and as a baby he miraculously survived an unobserved plunge into a swimming pool. His (mis)adventures are told with self-deprecating aplomb, and he has a special knack for scene setting; the African bush is brought vividly to life on the page, and events are exciting, tear-jerking and scary in equal measure. Before he was eight years old, he had fended off rhinos, survived “uncomfortably close” encounters with buffalo and wildebeest, and been bitten twice by some seriously nasty snakes. His childhood pets, meanwhile, included a baby elephant, warthogs and an ostrich that considered herself part of the family. (The importance of protecting wildlife for future generations is a key message throughout, as one might imagine).
Now a successful model and emerging Hollywood actor (who has starred alongside Brad Pitt and many others), Meyer looks back fondly on his unusual childhood, and reflects on how the death of his beloved father helped him find the courage to follow his own dreams.
His story is one of living the dream – and of enjoying life’s rollercoasters along the way.