When his sister tricks him into taking her guru on a trip to their childhood home, Otto Ringling, a confirmed skeptic, is not amused. Six days on the road with an enigmatic holy man who answers every question with a riddle is not what he'd planned. But in an effort to westernize his passenger---and amuse himself---he decides to show the monk some "American fun" along the way. From a chocolate factory in Hershey to a bowling alley in South Bend, from a Cubs game at Wrigley field to his family farm near Bismarck, Otto is given the remarkable opportunity to see his world---and more important, his life---through someone else's eyes. Gradually, skepticism yields to amazement as he realizes that his companion might just be the real thing. In Roland Merullo's masterful hands, Otto tells his story with all the wonder, bemusement, and wry humor of a man who unwittingly finds what he's missing in the most unexpected place.
©2007 Roland Merullo (P)2011 Tantor
"The skillful Merullo, using the lightest of touches, slowly turns this low-key comedy into a moving story of spiritual awakening." (Booklist)
This audiobook was a real pleasure--one I plan to come back to again and again. One reason is I love the performance as well as the voice of the reader, Sean Runette. I found it soothing yet compelling--you know, the type where you don't want to get out of your car and turn it off. Even at the end of the story, the characters rest with me--I have shared the better part of a week with Otto and his travelling companion and felt as if I was there with them.
The plot is simple enough---a middle aged man travelling from his home NY to his childhood home, to the heartland settle the estate of his parents who were killed suddenly. However there is a rhythm to the book, a progression across geography, cultures and the thoughts of Otto--flowing out at first in a rapid stream of consciousness that had a bent to describe, label and judge, and eventually coming to a place of peace, home and family---and something more-- an interior voyage, to find his own heart, breath and soul.
The entire concept of this book appealed to me, but I was afraid it would not be so digestible to my own middle aged husband. However, he really enjoyed this audio book as well. The rich imagery, descriptions of food so vivid that could almost taste it, and the humor....lots of humor appealed to my own Otto-like husband and will hopefully set him on a bit of a journey of his own.
As for me, it gave me a lot of food for thought. I adored the Rimposhe's perception of the "real" America, his kindness even when in adversity, in fact, I loved loved how "stress" was dealt with in this story. So much to love in this book.
Some people are not capable of taking in purely spiritual books yet, so this one has a lot of spiritual messages hidden in an actual story and story telling format, it's pretty good actually, but it needs to be recognized as a mostly spiritual book, not a mostly story book.
I've listened to this book several times - it's upbeat and very light, but every time I hear it I find just a little bit more insight on finding internal peace. I found the end a bit disappointing because it seemed a little far-fetched in a book that, although sweet and silly in places, always felt down to earth up to that point. I find it pairs nicely with "Opening the Door of Your Heart and Other Buddhist Tales of Happiness" by Ajahn Brahm, which I also bought on Audible.
3 hours in and I had to stop. Too boring! White upper middle class male pretentious ramblings! It's more like a journal of a man who fancies himself interesting, and you get the feeling he thinks his thoughts are profound. They aren't.
Voice was as boring as the book.
The main narrator of the story.
The tension of Otto's beliefs about how he should live (a successful decent American life) began to expand and unwind in the course of a resisted journey with 'Rinpoche' that kept gently, skillfully and humorously confounding him.
All the improbabilities of the plot were great expressions of the characters. The tensions played well against the reliefs.
The reading was done very well.
All the core characters acquired 'flesh' and significance.
However, I found Otto's very last action in the story a disappointing crescendo to the dance of challenges that 'Rinpoche' had repeatedly posed to his beliefs. This accounts for the lost star.
Greedy, voracious reader since age five. After a number of eye injuries & surgeries, reading is hard. So now, I listen.
A tightly-wound guy sets off on a road trip with a holy man from Russia instead of with his sister, as he'd planned. It's very funny, thoughtful and thought-provoking, and the serene acceptance of ---everything!---by the Rimpoche is so perfectly described that just reading about it made me feel the calm. The narrator is perfect. The story is perfect. I loved every word of this!
I will not lie. It started off rough. The first half an 10-15 minutes didn't grab me, but once they set on the road...WOW!!! I couldn't stop listening to it. Sean Runnette did an amazing job with Rinpoche. And Roland Merullo made me laugh, made me think, and came close to making me cry. I actually think I might have shed a tear. It was wonderful. If you are open enough to have come this far, go for it. You WILL enjoy it...after the first 10-15 minutes. c:
This book totally captured me. I loved it.
And then it fell apart in the last chapter.
So, for the first umpteen chapters, 5 stars. For that last falling apart drivel in the last chapter, 1 star.
The challenges of the writer to face the prejudices of his own beliefs while slowing opening his mind.
The miniature golf.
I did have a few emotional reactions that provided both laughter and a tear on occasion as I faced my own demons.
A journey worth taking
I would rate it as one of the top stories.
The narrator was excellent. The story was both funny and insightful.
The bowling scene when the guru discovers fun!
The plot was a little weak but interesting enough to keep me looking forward to the next chapter.
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