three-and-half-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
33-Mar-Apr-2008
user_rating: 
0

A-Breakfast with BuddhaOtto Ringling is a successful, happily married Manhattanite facing an existential crisis brought on by the recent death of his parents. Volya Rinpoche is a Mongolian monk recently released from a Siberian prison who now acts as a spiritual advisor to Otto’s sister, Cecilia. When Cecelia insists that Volya take her place on a road trip with Otto from New Jersey to North Dakota to settle their deceased parents’ affairs, these two very different men embark on a journey rich with both physical and spiritual discoveries. As Otto shows Volya the pleasures of the American landscape, Volya helps Otto come to terms with the unnerving reality of loss.
Algonquin. 323 pages. $23.95. ISBN: 1565125525

Providence Journal 4 of 5 Stars
"Roland Merullo is such an immediately engaging author … that you’re sucked right into his world. … This is a wonderful, heartfelt novel that frequently surprises as we’re lulled by the sights and sounds of the open road." Sam Coale

Washington Post 4 of 5 Stars
"Please don’t be put off when I describe this pleasant, engaging novel as a sermon. … On finishing this book, I decided that Roland Merullo would be a great guy to take a road trip with." Carolyn See

Boston Globe 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Merullo writes with grace and intelligence and knows that even in a novel of ideas it’s not the religion that matters, it’s the relationship; it’s not the concepts, but the people, and here are two intriguing men, one with his eye on the destination and his foot on the pedal, the other who knows that we travel farthest when we are still. You’ll enjoy sitting in the back seat of the car as Otto drives on deep into the luminous heart of his childhood." John Dufresne

Seattle Times 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Spiritual odysseys are seldom filled with baseball games, miniature golf, Mexican food and belly laughs, but this one is the exception. … Merullo’s other novels have [also] explored life on Earth in insightful, amusing, loving ways, avoiding clichés or ponderous declarations about the human condition." Valerie Ryan

Hartford Courant 3 of 5 Stars
"Nothing feels particularly new here and, at times, is seriously clichéd. … The dilemma, if you can call it that, is Merullo’s seductive prose. You just can’t dislike his novels even if you have no interest in their subject matter." Michael Lee

Critical Summary

With Breakfast with Buddha, Roland Merullo, the author of seven books, including the critically acclaimed Revere Beach Trilogy and A Little Love Story ( 4 of 5 Stars Selection Jan/Feb 2006), takes on one of the oldest and most popular literary genres—the road novel. Authors from Chaucer to Twain to Kerouac have already written journey-focused masterpieces, and some critics pointed out that Merullo isn’t necessarily doing anything new in this novel. However, as the Washington Post declares, "Yes, it’s all formulaic, but it’s such a sweet formula!" Despite the presence of a few mechanical scenes and characters, reviewers appreciated Merullo’s engaging writing style and his light and joyous treatment of what could have been very heavy-handed spiritual material.