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Publishers Weekly/Pick of the Week – April 20, 2014
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.