The year is 1968, three years after Netta Pfeifer saw the movie Born Free, based on Joy Adamson’s award-winning book. Fascinated by what she perceived as a special kind of love that led Joy and George Adamson to return their pet lioness, Elsa, to a life in the wild, Netta wrote a fan letter to the Adamsons. The two-year correspondence with Joy that followed evolved into an invitation for Netta to visit Joy’s camp in Kenya’s Meru National Park where Joy was studying the cheetah, Pippa, and her cubs.
In Nairobi, Netta receives her first surprise from Joy, a list of errands to run and supplies to procure—a lot to ask of a stranger and guest in a foreign and confusing city.
It is also a portent of things to come in her roller-coaster relationship with the enigmatic Joy: author, painter, sculptor, concert pianist, and wildlife researcher.
Far from being a simple adventure in the African wilderness, Netta lives in a palm log hut, learns the ways of the wildlife all around her—from elephants to elands to eagle owls—cares for the camp in Joy’s absences, and spends a great deal of time at George Adamson’s camp with his many lions. As a month’s visit lengthens into six, Netta becomes Joy’s assistant, her typist, her editor, her occasional cook, her travel companion, and her chief listener.
All the while, Joy’s volatility, unpredictability, and lack of social skills reminds Netta of her own mother’s mental illness, and focuses her attention on why she’d traveled to Africa in the first place: her search for an answer to the question, What is love? As told in this memoir, little did she know that her answer lay in the vision she’d had when she was eight years old of a beautiful man who became her guardian angel, her inner voice.
Leaving Joy, Netta spends three months in Nairobi with the Adamsons’ veterinarian friends, the only European members in all of East Africa of an East Indian mystic philosophy. Through them, she heads to India where 1968 ends in an unexpected and beautiful way…
a way that changes her outlook—and her life—in a spiritual awakening.