Dinner with Buddha A novel

Roland Merullo

Book - 2015

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Subjects
Genres
Road fiction
Published
Chapel Hill, North Carolina : Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill [2015]
Edition
First edition
Language
English
Physical Description
344 pages ; 22 cm
ISBN
9781565129283
1565129288
Main Author
Roland Merullo (-)
Review by Booklist Reviews

The last in a trilogy (Breakfast with Buddha, 2007; Lunch with Buddha, 2012) finds Otto Ringling once again on the road with his brother-in-law, renowned Buddhist monk Volya Rinpoche. Otto is seriously depressed, in mourning after the death of his beloved wife and bereft at having lost his job as a food editor. His sister, Cecelia, has had visions that her daughter is the next Dalai Lama, and she wants her husband and brother to set off on a trip to find the holy woman in the mountains who can help them. Along with side trips to casinos, sand dunes, and a Native American reservation, the two resume their relationship as teacher and acolyte, with Volya patiently coaxing Otto to give himself over to more meditation in order to fully appreciate living in the moment. Otto, unlike his visionary sister, has always been a skeptic about the usefulness of Eastern practices and struggles to find peace of mind. Merullo offers keen insight into and intelligent assessments of modern American life, but it is his compassionate portrait of a grieving Otto in search of inner tranquility that is most affecting. Copyright 2014 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

Otto Ringling has come to a crossroads. Still struggling with his wife's death and the adjustments to his life without her, Otto returns to his family home in North Dakota, which is now a spiritual retreat run by his sister, Cecelia, and her husband, a famous Buddhist leader named Volya Rinpoche. Upon arrival, he is informed by Cecelia that she has had visions that her daughter may possibly become the next Dalai Lama. The mysterious person who must help his niece is located somewhere in the mountains and thus Otto finds himself on his third road trip with his brother-in-law. Rinpoche spiritually guides Otto with lessons and meditation as they meander through America's interior from North Dakota to Nevada. VERDICT Merullo's third visionary adventure follows the same formula as Breakfast with Buddha and Lunch with Buddha, featuring a few humorous scenes and picturesque descriptions of the various areas and inhabitants encountered as Otto learns sacred lessons. While concepts of acceptance and being nonjudgmental are spoon-fed to Otto throughout the story, Merullo is disappointingly inconsistent with the messages.—Joy Gunn, Paseo Verde Lib., Henderson, NV [Page 83]. (c) Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

When Otto Ringling embarked on a road trip eight years ago with his Russian monk brother-in-law, Volya Rinpoche, in Breakfast with Buddha, he exposed the spiritual master to the messy intricacies of American society and, in turn, was taught the Buddhist method of self-discovery through meditation and mindfulness. They're on the road again, but this time with graver concerns: middle-aged Otto has experienced a series of life-changing losses, while Rinpoche's seven-year-old daughter may be the next Dalai Lama. Spurred on by crippling uncertainty, they travel through Native American reservations, roadside diners, casinos, homes of broken families, and more. Otto's underlying depression and grief is unearthed during his search for "the tonic for lardy middle-aged discouragement." Merullo masterfully depicts the struggles of practicing mindfulness moment by moment; Otto is not perfect and succumbs to self-defeating thoughts frequently, but it is his effort to learn and improve that serves as a powerful model. Merullo asks readers to be compassionate and conscious in a world of suffering, where following the road map of predictability does not give the best or even the most obvious answers. Otto and Rinpoche learn to "scrape the jadedness" from their habitual reactions in order to be present for themselves and for the world. Merullo's novel is full of nuanced, thoughtful prose and is an immensely satisfying conclusion to the series. Agent: Marly Rusoff, Marly Rusoff Literary Agency. (June) [Page ]. Copyright 2014 PWxyz LLC

Review by Publisher Summary 1

When Otto Ringling's life begins to come apart, he turns to his spiritual teacher brother-in-law for help, only to find that the wise man is in need of help himself, so the two try to sort out their lives by going on a road trip across middle America.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

If life is a journey--with detours, paths from which to choose, and myriad roadblocks to overcome--then Otto Ringling is most certainly on the journey of a lifetime.   The first fifty or so years of Otto's journey were pretty good. He felt he had it all until one day he didn’t. Looking for answers, he calls on his enlightened brother-in-law, Volya Rinpoche, a wise man with Russian roots, a Tibetan heritage, and an international reputation as a spiritual teacher. The two men first got to know each other on a journey years before, during which they explored both the real and spiritual aspects of the world around them. Now Otto needs his brother-in-law’s wisdom once more, and this time it turns out that Rinpoche himself is also looking for guidance. They embark on a road trip over highways and back roads across the middle of America, hoping to sort out what’s troubling them. They encounter a diverse cast of characters along the way as they look for answers to life’s mysteries. With its highs and lows, their trip is, of course, a metaphor for life’s larger journey. But it is also a lesson in love and gratitude.The two travelers peer beneath the surface of things to seek a deeper purpose. Luckily, for them and for us, we never know what’s waiting around the next bend in the road. “We, like Otto, find our cynicism worn away by Rinpoche’s gentle instruction in the simple but terribly difficult art of letting go, living each moment to the fullest, seeing the sacred in the everyday . . . This brave, meditative author has carved a unique niche in American literature.” —Kirkus Reviews, starred review