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.
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
As long as you're not looking for anything of depth this is a gentle way to spend an afternoon listening to the musings of 2 men trying to make sense of their lifes. I enjoyed it but was somewhat disappointed in its lack of substance.
People who don't read miss out. I almost missed out on this one due to the slow start of the story, but thankfully the book gained momentum after about half an hour or so, picking up more with each chapter.
Peals of laughter from deep in my chest, lumps in my throat, sometimes tears in my eyes that were left from laughter or some emotion that was brought forth from the writing.
In the movie Avatar, there is saying "I see you" and this is something that the author brought forth in this book again and again. We see humanity, with faults and gifts, angry, kind, childish, witty, mean, or compassionate. We see humanity through the various people described, observed, or met in this road trip, and especially in the unfolding of one character and the evolution of the other.
I started out knowing this was a fictional book, but midway couldn't help doing an internet search just to make sure. Because I hoped it was not. But, it is.
I hope the sequel will be put on Audible too. A book to bring forth the best in the reader as we are given moments to contemplate, be thoughtful, and maybe come out at the end of this book a little better for the experience.
The funny parts were really funny too. I love it when an author can make me laugh.
Excellent and perfect narration.
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.
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.
I'm not sure I'd listen again anytime soon simply because I have so many other audio books waiting, but it was a memorable story that will stick with me.
I loved Volya Rinpoche because he was such an interesting character. In fact, I knew there was a sequel ("Lunch With Buddha") and was disappointed to see that Audible doesn't have it.
No, I haven't listened to other performances, but he was a good narrator.
I'm rarely able to listen to anything in one sitting, but I was intrigued once I got into the story and was eager to see where it went.
Just give it a try- it's not a heavy story, and there are spiritual elements, but it's not preachy.
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