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Lunch with Buddha by Roland Merullo

Lunch with Buddha

by Roland Merullo

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Otto and Volya Rinpoche are back on the road again to North Dakota, traveling from the west this time. As Otto's inner journey to self understanding continues, his surrounding world - job, family - change in ways that seem almost predestined. I'm looking forward to dinner with Buddha. I received this book free from the Goodreads First Reads program. ( )
  wandaly | Jun 30, 2016 |
I first discovered Roland Merullo after reading Breakfast with Buddha. He has now published two sequels. Lunch with Buddha continues the story of the relationship between Otto Ringling and his sister Cecelia, who has now married Volya Rinpoche. They have a daughter, Shelsa. In Breakfast, Cecelia urges Otto to allow the Rinpoche to ride with him to North Dakota to settle the estate of his parents killed in an automobile collision with an intoxicated driver. Otto is a skeptic of the first order, and is suspicious of Volya’s intentions toward his sister. However, Otto begins to understand them during that trip.

In Lunch with Buddha, the family gathers in Seattle to scatter the ashes of Otto’s recently deceased wife, Jeannie. Many parts of this novel deal with Otto’s handling his grief. On the return trip, Otto and Volya take delivery of a used truck, which an admirer has donated to Volya for use at his retreat house in North Dakota. Cececlia convinced Otto to donate the farm in North Dakota to Volya.

On the drive from Washington State to North Dakota, Otto and Volya meet a wide variety of characters, from seers and fortune tellers, to oil field workers, to bigots, who assume Otto and Volya are some sort of couple. Otto has begun a three-quarters-hearted attempt at meditation, and is much more open to Volya’s teachings, despite the fact he fails to understand some aspects of his philosophy.

At one point, Volya compliments Otto on his parenting. Volya says, “‘All the goodness has power with it, see?’ // ‘No.’ [Otto says.] // He threw back his head like a man laughing, but he didn’t laugh. There was a small smile there, a wrinkle of a smile, almost a wince. ‘Walk now,’ he said, ‘with me.’ // In his tone, in the suggestion, I recognized the start of one of what I thought of as his ‘mini-lessons.’ And I wanted a mini-lesson then. More than anything I wanted some new word, some serving of wisdom to change the way the world seemed to me at that moment. If it really were true that Shelsa was in danger, or would be down the road – and I wasn’t completely convinced -- then it was just more evidence of the unfairness of this life. A good woman, a mother, dying at age forty-eight. An innocent girl, hated by ‘bad men.’ Crucifixions, assassinations, bigotry in a thousand reptilian forms. Why didn’t good prevail? Why, if a person did, indeed, accumulate some power from being a good father, a good soul, or a great teacher, why didn’t that protect him or her from the hatred that grew everywhere on this planet like weeds in a hot lake?” (110-111). Ah, yes, the problem of evil. The insoluble mystery which has haunted Homo Sapiens for hundreds of millennia.

I have taken many long trips, and experienced some of the same wonder at the beauty of our country – the land, the mountains, the lakes, and the landscape. Otto and I share such an experience. Merullo writes, “what often happens when I’ve made a long drive into the later hours is that my body cranks itself to stay awake, and then needs some cranking-down time. There was a bar at the Bighorn, a modest little place with sports on the raised TV and a small selection of local beers. I decided I’d have one solitary Moose Drool, watch fifteen minutes of the Olympics, and head upstairs to the room” (241). Otto is approached by a woman, and they begin a conversation. She invites him to her home, and he declines. He reviews this incident a couple of times in the novel, and I found his penchant for introspection highly interesting.

Lunch with Buddha by Roland Merullo is a thought-provoking, insightful, wonderful examination of the journey we are all on. The third volume in this series, Dinner with Buddha is near the top of my TBR pile. 5 stars.

--Jim, 5/28/16 ( )
  rmckeown | May 30, 2016 |
This is the sequel to Breakfast with Buddha. Another road trip across the western U.S. with his Buddhist monk brother-in-law, leads to more spiritual questions and insights for Otto. Doubts and politically incorrect topics are dealt with great honesty. I highly recommend this series if you have any interest in Buddhist philosophy. ( )
  poetreegirl | May 26, 2015 |
Disclaimer: I received a copy of Lunch with Buddha by Roland Merullo from TLC Book Tours for review.

Lunch with Buddha is the third of Roland Merullo’s novels I’ve read (Breakfast with Buddha and American Savior being the first two), and I found it no less delightful than the others. Though it is the sequel to Breakfast with Buddha, by no means must you read one to appreciate the other.

Overall, I found Lunch with Buddha to be an enjoyable, relaxing, enlightening read — gentle, funny, touching, and full of food for thought. I like Merullo's writing style a lot and appreciate his knack for creating sympathetic, three-dimensional characters. I’m happy to have been reminded to check out more by Roland Merullo!

Full review on Erin Reads. ( )
  erelsi183 | Nov 18, 2013 |
[Lunch with Buddha] seems unlikely to appeal to a wide audience, just as Eastern religious beliefs continue to occupy only a relatively small niche in the U.S. national psyche. But if you're game, this is a well done spiritual road journey. Once again, after we first met them in [Breakfast with Buddha], skeptical but yearning Otto Ringling hits the road with his irrepressible guru brother-in-law Volya, a Russian Buddhist (who's actually omniverous in his religious consumption).

Otto's had a happy, successful, comfortable life as an editor in New York. He describes himself as "Sophisticated, perhaps spoiled, a tad cynical, fond of strong coffee and the Times, witty in a big-city way, afraid of pain and death, open to the idea of a calmer mind but not yet quite to the associated antics that accompanied a serious spiritual practice." He has lost his wife Jeannie unexpectedly, and he is traveling with his children to Seattle to fulfill her wish of spreading her ashes out West. He is rudderless and hoping somehow to find his way.

Volya, the Rinpoche, with his Russian accent, has a wide following, and Otto wants him to be the real thing. "After all these years, all these 'wessons', all the hours I'd spent in reading and meditation, if he turned out to be a kindly fraud, I think I would have taken to drink, or signed up for a lifetime of therapy, or never again in my life ventured off the safely beaten path." They ride together in an old pick-up (the gift of an acolyte) from the Northwest back to the family farm in North Dakota. Otto's sister and Volya, along with their spiritually precocious young daughter, now run a retreat there, much to the dismay of some locals. As Otto and Volya journey through well-described mountains and Yellowstone and wide plains, Volya looks to Otto to explain American culture. They have fun on water slides and in the "Boiling River" at Yellowstone, and Volya gets to learn about American food, marijuana, and various American eccentricities. There's a lively meetup with a group of transvestites in an unlikely locale, who go from skeptical and threatening to embracing. Volya is a sweet and funny character who clearly is no fraud. He also has no interest in behaving in some heavenly royal way for his followers. He knows Otto well, spent much time with Otto's dying wife, and gradually tries to lead Otto away from being lost in grief to being present with his family and others.

Otto is an entertaining curmudgeon who is well aware of his many failings, and a father who wants the best for his teenage son and daughter, but has difficulty letting them reach their own decisions. Times when he finds himself, finally, giving them honest answers, rather than pat, fatherly advice, rang true for me. His reaction to horrifyingly realistic homophobia from fundamental Christians (who mistakenly assume he and Volya are a couple) also rang true. I enjoyed reading a book that takes on the more difficult questions we all face with humor and self-deprecation. Life, death, depression, religion, misguided religiosity, parenting, loss, the dangers of exalting the teacher, why we are here, all lightly and dextrously handled in a worthy follow-up to his equally enjoyable [Breakfast with Buddha]. ( )
  jnwelch | Jun 12, 2013 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0984834575, Paperback)

Heartbreaking in places, hilarious in others, Lunch with Buddha takes its readers on a quintessentially American road trip across the Northwest.  That outer journey, complete with good and bad meals, various outdoor adventures, and an amusing cast of quirky characters, mirrors a more interior journey--a quest for meaning in the hectic routine of modern life.  

Otto Ringling, who's just turned 50, is an editor of food books at a prestigious New York publishing house, a middle-of-the-road father with a nice home in the suburbs, children he adores, and a sense of himself as being a mainstream,middle-class American.  His sister, Cecelia, is the last thing from mainstream.For two decades she's made a living reading palms and performing past-life regressions.She believes firmly in our ability to communicate with those who have passed on.

In Lunch with Buddha, when Otto faces what might be the greatest of life's emotional challenges, it is Cecelia who knows how to help him.As she did years earlier-- in this book's best-selling predecessor, Breakfast with Buddha--she arranges for her brother to travel with Volya Rinpoche, a famous spiritual teacher--who now also happens to be her husband. After early chapters in which the family gathers for an important event, the novel portrays the road trip made by Otto and Rinpoche, in a rattling pickup, from Seattle, across the Idaho panhandle and the vast Montana prairie, to the family farm in North Dakota. Along the way, the brothers-in-law have a series of experiences--some hilarious, some poignant--all aimed at bringing Otto a deeper peace of mind.

During visits to American landmarks, they meet a cast of minor characters, each of whom enables Rinpoche to impart some new spiritual lesson.Their conversations range from questions about life and death to talk of history, marijuana, marriage and child-rearing, sexuality, Native Americans, and outdoor swimming. In the end, with the help of their miraculous daughter, Shelsa, and the prodding of Otto's own almost-adult children, Rinpoche and Cecelia push this decent, middle-of-the-road American into a more profound understanding of the purpose of his life.His sense of the line between possible and impossible is altered, and the story's ending points him toward a very different way of being in this world.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:16:45 -0400)

Otto Ringling and his sister Cecelia could not be more different. He's just turned 50, an editor of food books at a prestigious New York publishing house, a man with a nice home in the suburbs, children he adores, and a sense of himself as being a mainstream, upper-middle-class American. Cecelia is the last thing from mainstream. For two decades she's made a living reading palms and performing past-life regressions. She believes firmly in our ability to communicate with those who have passed on. It will turn out, though, that they have more in common than just their North Dakota roots.… (more)

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