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Buddhaland Brooklyn: A Novel | [Richard C. Morais]

Buddhaland Brooklyn: A Novel

Growing up in a quaint mountainside village in Japan, Seido Oda spent his boyhood fishing in clear mountainside streams and helping his parents run their small inn. At the age of 11, Oda is sent to study with the monks at a nearby Buddhist temple. This peaceful, quiet refuge in the remote mountains of Japan becomes home for the introverted monk - until he approaches his 40th birthday and is ordered by his superior to cross the ocean and open a temple in Brooklyn. Ripped from the isolated, serene life of his homeland temple, Oda receives a shock to his system in New York - a motley crew of American Buddhists with misguided practices.
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Publisher's Summary

From the writer whose debut novel, The Hundred-Foot Journey, continues to charm readers around the world comes a modern fairy tale about a man who finds his true calling in a foreign land.

Featuring rich descriptions and a cast of eccentric characters, this is a contemporary fable about a Japanese Buddhist priest who ends up finding himself in the unlikeliest of places.

Growing up in a quaint mountainside village in Japan, Seido Oda spent his boyhood fishing in clear mountainside streams and helping his parents run their small inn. At the age of 11, Oda is sent to study with the monks at a nearby Buddhist temple. This peaceful, quiet refuge in the remote mountains of Japan becomes home for the introverted monk - until he approaches his 40th birthday and is ordered by his superior to cross the ocean and open a temple in Brooklyn.

Ripped from the isolated, serene life of his homeland temple, Oda receives a shock to his system in New York - a motley crew of American Buddhists whose misguided practices lead to a host of hilarious cultural misunderstandings. It is only when Oda comes to appreciate the Americans, flaws and all, that he sees his own shortcomings and finally finds that sense of belonging he has always sought.

A lively and vivid novel, this entertaining and edifying meditation on the meaning of true acceptance stirs from the very first page.

Richard C. Morais, author of The Hundred-Foot Journey, is a contributing editor at Barron’s in New York. An American raised in Switzerland, he was stationed in London for 17 years, where he was Forbes’ European bureau chief.

©2012 RCM Media, LLC (P)2012 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

What the Critics Say

"In exquisite prose, Buddhaland Brooklyn illuminates the hearts of wholly different cultures - an isolated Buddhist monastery; bustling New York - and also the universal truths of human life. Reverend Seido Oda’s journey from shutdown, haughty priest to compassionate religious leader is a profoundly moving one making for a complex, beautiful book that lingers in the imagination long after the last line is read." (Robin Black, author of If I Loved You, I Would Tell You This)

"Morais’s latest follows Seido, a Japanese Buddhist priest whose attachment to ritual fortifies him against the heartbreak of his youth.... By leaving the austere orderliness of Japan and entering the noisy hodgepodge of Brooklyn, Seido finds, for the first time, a community.... A breezy read that ably moves to a predictable feel-good resolution." (Publishers Weekly)

What Members Say

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  •  
    connie Sydney, Nova Scotia, Canada 07-25-12
    connie Sydney, Nova Scotia, Canada 07-25-12 Member Since 2007

    trying to see the world with my ears

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "engaging listen"

    This is a feel good listen with dharma (though the Buddhist sect depicted is fictional). The novel is unique and not at all saccharine, though it fits in the "happily ever after without angst" category. It's such an easy read, yet this novel has substance and poetry! I'm tempted to call it Paulo Coelo light, but I don't mean that as negative.

    The publisher's label of "fairy tale" and "fable" may mislead fantasy fans. While it can be heard as a fable about finding oneself, it's a storyline/fictional memoir from everyday life with little of the fantastic except a belief in a spiritual world - one that is shared by many faiths.

    I listen to a lot of novels, and this one landed just as I needed something fresh - It really gave my spirit a lift. I've listened to many Christian and Buddhist books about becoming less judgemental-- this novel worked better than nonfiction at getting me there. I haven't enjoyed a listen so much since many, many books ago.

    9 of 9 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kathi Sterling, VA, United States 03-08-13
    Kathi Sterling, VA, United States 03-08-13 Member Since 2010

    Love fiction--classic to light, serious to comedic. Selective non-fiction. These days lots of mysteries (not too violent, please :-)

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "A beautiful story of transformation"
    Where does Buddhaland Brooklyn rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    It was not my favorite, but I would place it on the list of those that are worthy of remembering and recommending to others.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of Buddhaland Brooklyn?

    The moments of transformation toward the end, when Seido Oda has a deep recognition of how his own attitude has been his greatest enemy--that it has kept him from finding the connections with other people he has been wishing for. He has tried to accomplish this through his intelligence and his standing as the temple priest, and has to discover that those qualities--while they often bring respect, usually do not--alone--bring closeness.


    What does Feodor Chin bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    I think he is a very sensitive reader--did all the parts very well.


    If you could take any character from Buddhaland Brooklyn out to dinner, who would it be and why?

    Perhaps Michael or "Miss Jennifer" (two people who ultimately were key in helping Oda shift to a more comfortable, related human stance). Each of them had been hurt by events in life (as Oda had, himself) and they had their own ways of retreating from certain life connectedness (one more than the other)--but they allowed themselves to be more overtly vulnerable than Oda. He had allowed the role of Buddhist priest to shelter him from having to face his own grief--finding comforts in it (at least in Japan) through the solitary but secure life, his poetry and painting, and his prayers and ordered lifestyle.


    Any additional comments?

    I feel there are parallel stories played out here-- Oda, who has experienced deep grief as a child and found solace only in the semi-isolation of the priesthood, discovers westerners who have also suffered in various ways. Though at first he holds himself above and apart from them--thinking himself different--he eventually discovers that they share a lot in common, and he becomes freer to express long-repressed aspects of himself.

    Although the theme of this book is about Buddhism, it was not (in my opinion) his Buddhist faith, or his being Japanese (exactly) that touched me (even though they surely both speak of ways of being that are considered less open and forward than the American culture), so much as the universal theme of managing grief and hurt.

    The cultural differences dictated the way everyone understood their situations, but Oda's pride, his withholding of himself, was more than simply culture (because even other Buddhist priests commented on it to him). It was, it seemed to me, a stance he had adopted as the best way of handling feelings he could not otherwise have processed at the time--in the situation he was in. And his culture provided an avenue for that. (I'd like to say more--but fear it would turn into a spoiler).

    He was seeking enlightenment--the Buddhist term he understood and fits the story, but I think that there are other terms that also would touch on the same thing--such as wholeness, transformation, acceptance, being genuine. And that is the way that East and West come together in this book. We all have the potential to find parts of self that are pushed far back--and at times, it is only extreme circumstances that provides the opportunity to do so.

    The quest to find, acknowledge and heal the hurt parts of ourselves are not isolated to one culture--regardless of how we may name them differently. Oda had to find a way to claim parts of himself that he could not at first imagine. But only in doing so was he able to truly recognize himself as fully human--one who could relate in a genuine way to people around him.

    This is a lovely book--one that has beautiful descriptions of Oda's early life in Japan. It also has some very good observations about the discomfort people feel in meeting others who have different styles of being in the world. Watching the ways they all came to learn and grow from mutual observations and interactions made this a very endearing story.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    RaisinNut PA, USA 10-06-12
    RaisinNut PA, USA 10-06-12 Member Since 2011

    Making the world better one review at a time.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "A Grouchy, Unlikeable Main Character"
    Was Buddhaland Brooklyn worth the listening time?

    Buddhaland Brooklyn is an easy book to listen to. The writing is clean and simple, the plot moves along at a reasonable pace. My main complaint about this book is that I really didn't like the main character very much. He came off as a real snob. Perhaps Morais tried a little too hard to state cultural differences between a traditional Japanese Buddhist and the typical American Buddhist. The result was a grouchy, unlikeable character who no one would want to study Buddhism under. Then throw in a sex scene and it just gets creepy. I didn't get a whole lot out of this book, but I did listen all the way to the end. That's the best I can say for this one.


    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jen ravenna, OH, United States 09-20-12
    Jen ravenna, OH, United States 09-20-12 Member Since 2007
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    "Just Delightful"
    Any additional comments?

    Just a beautiful story from beginning to end. Very peaceful and kind...even when it got smarmy. A truely interesting and lovely story that I couldn't put down.

    It took a little intense listening to get into it, but very quickly I was hooked into the life and journey of this Buddist priest - imagine...

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
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