The delight of being ordinary A road trip with the Pope and the Dalai Lama

Roland Merullo

Book - 2017

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Road fiction
New York : Doubleday [2017]
First edition
Physical Description
xiv, 367 pages ; 22 cm
Main Author
Roland Merullo (author)
Review by Booklist Reviews

Once adventurous Paolo de Padova has aged into the cautious first assistant to his cousin, the pope. Just before the Dalai Lama's Vatican visit, His Holiness asks Paolo for a nearly impossible favor: to plan "an unofficial vacation" that includes the Dalai Lama. Initially Paolo thinks "signs of dementia," but the pope's earnestness inspires him to call his estranged wife, Rosa, a renowned hair and makeup artist, who disguises the holy duo as a wealthy tourist and possible rock star. Paolo becomes "a boat-people," an immigrant often mistreated by locals, guaranteeing a pope-approved lesson in compassion. Exploring the Italian countryside, the travelers experience "the delight of being ordinary," even while chasing holy visions involving Mussolini and mysterious children. Whimsical and irreverent, Merullo's parable meanders through divine doctrines and human relationships, attaining insights where least expected. In spite of one exasperating detail—only the Dalai Lama, the sole non-Caucasian, speaks in broken English, although none of the characters fluently share a language—this is a charming story celebrating connections over divisions that will especially thrill devotees of Merullo's Buddha Trilogy, including Dinner with Buddha (2015). Copyright 2017 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

Drawing from his previous road trip series, Merullo (Breakfast with Buddha) weaves a quirky but uplifting story in which Paolo de Padova, first assistant and cousin to Pope Francis, is asked to whisk away the pope and the visiting Dalai Lama on a clandestine vacation. Paolo's estranged wife Rosa tags along for the ride, providing the two religious leaders with disguises to prevent their being recognized. They travel the Italian countryside, inadvertently following the path of the last days of Mussolini, raising questions about spiritual progress, identities of religions, corruptibility, and more. The emotional core of the story lies in the dissonance between Paolo's spiritual ideals and his ordinary state of being. An incessant worrywart who believes he is right, Paolo must learn the greater lessons that the religious leaders and the road trip attempt to impart: how to accept the unexpected, to know that one is not always right, and to be humble enough to realize one's blind spots. Merullo's newest is a thoughtful, compassionate, and mature work, a "Christian- Buddhist-agnostic prayer" to the world, and readers will find a pleasant surprise in its conclusion. (Apr.) Copyright 2017 Publisher Weekly.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

Meeting during a highly publicized official visit at the Vatican, the Pope and the Dalai Lama embark on an unsanctioned, undercover vacation through the Italian countryside to rediscover the everyday joys of life. By the award-winning author of Breakfast with Buddha.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

Meeting during a highly publicized official visit at the Vatican, the Pope and the Dalai Lama embark on an unsanctioned, undercover vacation through the Italian countryside to rediscover the everyday joys of life.

Review by Publisher Summary 3

What happens when the Pope and the Dalai Lama decide they need a secret vacation?   Roland Merullo’s playful, eloquent, and life-affirming novel finds the world’s two holiest men teaming up for an unsanctioned road trip through the Italian countryside--where they rediscover the everyday joys and challenges of ordinary life.   During the Dalai Lama’s highly publicized official visit to the Vatican, the Pope suggests an adventure so unexpected and appealing that neither man can resist: they will shed their robes for several days and live as ordinary men. Before dawn, the two beloved religious leaders make a daring escape from Vatican City, slip into a waiting car, and are soon traveling the Italian roads in disguise. Along for the ride is the Pope’s neurotic cousin and personal assistant, Paolo, who--to his terror-- has been put in charge of arranging the details of their disappearance. Rounding out the group is Paolo’s estranged wife, Rosa, an eccentric entrepreneur with a lust for life, who orchestrates the sublime disguises of each man. Rosa is a woman who cannot resist the call to adventure--or the fun.   Against a landscape of good humor, intrigue, and spiritual fulfillment, The Delight of Being Ordinary showcases the uniquely charming sensibilities of author Roland Merullo. Part whimsical expedition, part love story, part spiritual search, this uplifting novel brings warmth and laughter to the universal concerns of family life, religious inspiration, and personal identity—all of which combine to transcend cultural and political barriers in the name of a once-in-a-lifetime adventure.