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.
The only way this book would have worked for me would have been if it was nonfiction and based on an actual experience of a road trip and a Buddhist guru. Scratch that--the "contrast character" could have been any serious spiritual seeker--not even a "guru" as long as the character was real. If you have ever spent time with an actual spiritual guide you will find the portrayal of this "guru" one dimensional, juvenile and totally missing the mark. What's more--the characters, premise of the action and spiritual lessons presented lack depth and believability. All the talk of food, hotel rooms, and this road trip experience became self absorbed and as such quickly boring. To me, a humorless fantasy that misleads and disappoints. I really wish I hadn't wasted time on this book.
I'm on chapter 33 and I find myself skipping not only whole pages but entire chapters wondering when this is going to be over. It started with such promise and now we just been wandering around Wisconsin, lost, no end in sight.
I'll fight my way through a few more chapters but then I give up.
The characters annoying and the performance overdone. Just couldn't stand listening to it. Only got through about one hour of it.
Given the protagonist a less irritating flaw than temper tantrums. Given the same person a profession that the author actually knew something about. A food expert he is not. More like a food aficionado.
He did his best.
I guess I was expecting some insightful observations, but there is thing here but a road trip with (2) very boring characters. Very flat narration. Not much to enjoy apart from a few humorous interludes. Disappointing.
I seldom write reviews but I felt with this book I need to write one... maybe I can save you from wasting hours of your life. I hope the author never reads this as I don't want to bring pain into his life, yet I do this to spare others from this book.
Let me start saying that I love buddhism and good stories. Yet, I kept waiting for this book to become something else than a guy complaining about everything. Unfortunately it never did. This book did not provide an interesting story nor any sort of buddhist insight beyond the utterly most pedestrian buddhism.
Save your time and money.
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:
I'm a recovering librarian. Since I had a stroke in 2002 I have found reading print difficult. I am so grateful for audiobooks.
Rather week plot. Too much about what he ate for dinner and too little about personal struggle to come to terms with existential angst.
I could not recommend this read to anyone I know
No. The monotone quality of his voice left the listener begging for any ounce of deflection.
The first six chapters that I suffered through, couldn't to listen to more then that
If I said the writing of this book was lackluster, it would be a complement. I have never read of caricatures more boring . I kept waiting for something, ANYTHING to take a turn; however, by mid chapter six I realized that it wasn't going to.
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.
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