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.
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:
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'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.
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.
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.
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.
Not only would I listen to it again I AM listening to it again. I finished listening to it, processed the ending, thought about the journey I had just taken with the main two characters and decided that there were just too many tidbits of wisdom that I must have missed the first time through and it well deserved an immediate re-listen. I have never done this with any other audiobook. And I have listened to many audiobooks. I almost did it with Stephen King's 11-22-63 but I didn't.
I guess the only other book that may come close as far as enlightenment is The Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramhansa Yogananda. Close but without the humorous side that is so important to this book. It balances everything really well.
My favorite scene in this book is when the New York Book Editor and the Guru play miniature golf and become a foursome with a married couple who are both professors. The wife a Professor of English and the husband a Professor of Philosophy. The interaction between the husband and the Guru is just fascinating. And hilarious. I was either laughing or smiling during the whole "duel."
Ironically I would call it Never Judge a Book By Its Cover: Read Between the Lineage.
This book changed my way of looking at the world and myself in a very good way. I was definitely changed by this book or I would never have bothered re-listening to it so I could wring every ounce of wisdom from its pages. It hit the Top 5 Books I have ever read or listened to. A must read if you wan to positively change the way you look at the world and the way you live in it. BTW, this is the only book I have ever reviewed. I just felt compelled to do it so I could share it with fellow listeners.
Newly retired, I am a reading fiend! I like many types of books, both fiction and non-fiction, with the exception of romance and fantasy
I hesitantly started this book the other day, not having any idea if I would like it. No worry, I told myself, if it's awful, you will get your money back. I realized immediately that was not going to happen.
This is a fun and very enjoyable book. It grabbed me from the start and I loved each and every minute of it. It elicited quite a few chuckles and even a tear or two. It is more serious than funny, quite introspective, but the Rinpoche is just so endearing and amusing and Otto has many life lessons to learn. If I could be overly flowery I would say it made my heart sing.
Audible provides a nice summary. Basically, a husband/father is tricked into traveling cross country, not with his flaky sister as planned, but with her guru, as he travels to wrap up things in North Dakota after his parents' sudden and unexpected death in a car accident.
That's all you need to know. Take the leap and get this book. I have a feeling it is an easy to miss experience, that you just might feel you have no interest in gurus or Buddhism. Neither did I. What a loss it would have been if I didn't take a chance and get it. Such a nice surprise.
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