Lunch with Buddha by Roland Merullo
Published: 2012 by AJAR Contemporaries
Source: Received from the publisher for review
Let me tell you a story: About two months ago I received an e-mail from Lisa, one of the TLC Book Tour coordinators, with a list of tours she thought I might be interested in joining. In the list I saw Lunch with Buddha: “a novel about a middle age man who finds a deeper sense of meaning through a roadtrip with a spiritual teacher”. Wait, I think to myself, I already read this book last year, and it was called Breakfast with Buddha — who could have made such a mistake with the title and why would they be doing a tour of the book now? Well, thankfully I investigated and to my delight Lunch with Buddha is a new novel continuing (almost) from where the last book left off! Since I really enjoyed Breakfast (reviewed here), I certainly couldn’t pass up on Lunch, could I?
So on to the book. Lunch picks up about six years after Breakfast ends. Otto Ringling and his children meet his sister Cecelia, her daughter Shelsa and her husband Volya Rinpoche in Washington to mourn another death, and while Cecelia and the kids take the train back to the Ringling family farm in North Dakota (now a spiritual retreat), Otto and Volya drive back in an old pickup truck donated to the retreat. Unlike their last road trip, Otto is a lot more at ease with Volya — he is family now after all — but he still finds it a struggle to fully grasp and accept what Volya is trying to teach him simply by living life.
There is a spirtual component to this book but it’s not heavy at all. In fact, I would almost say that it’s spirtual by not being spiritual at all (It makes sense in my head, trust me!). Volya is always so happy at whatever he is doing, so open to trying new things, and so …. innocent; even the most hardened cynic could probably learn a thing or two from him about living in the moment and enjoying what you are doing.
Again, like in Breakfast, the novel is a wonderful travelogue through the American countryside, this time through the Pacific Northwest and Western Plains States. And it was obviously very recently written, because references to the recent U.S. election and some of the highly-charged issues related to it are brought up in the narrative.
You don’t have to read Breakfast in order to enjoy Lunch, but you should read them both at some point. They are both delightful novels — thoughtful, touching, funny and very enjoyable.
The publishers have graciously offered a copy of Lunch with Buddha to giveaway to a lucky commenter. I will randomly select the winning comment to this post on Wednesday, December 12 (sorry, U.S. or Canada residents only).
For other opinions on this book, please visit the other stops on the tour.