Skip to main content

Breakfast With Buddha

Review

Breakfast With Buddha

BREAKFAST WITH BUDDHA is Roland Merullo’s story of a
man’s journey to self-discovery. The means by which Otto
Ringling transforms his viewpoints on life, love, parents,
children, siblings and growth is told quite simply. Otto begins a
cross-country drive from his home in a New York City suburb to the
remote plains of North Dakota, to the farm where he spent his
childhood. His novel could read as a travelogue across the
mid-section of the United States. However, BREAKFAST WITH BUDDHA is
a trip marked by memories revived in the places he now
visits.


Told in the first person, the book engulfs the reader immediately
into the task that Otto must perform. His parents’ lives have
been snuffed in an automobile crash. Otto plans an August itinerary
for travel that accommodates his busy schedule as a New York
editor. Summer is the slack season for book promotion, an ideal
time to re-bond with his flaky sister, Cecilia. She’s a
retread from the ’60s, complete with yoga, incense and her
spiritual guru, Volya Rinpoche. The crimson-robed Skovordinian monk
is a Zen-master in his own right, with the credit of books written
and a dedicated following. His popularity reaches into the Midwest
where he is scheduled to speak on his favorite subjects.


Arriving at Cecilia’s sanctuary, Otto meets the affable,
intelligent monk and plans to whisk his sister off to North Dakota,
where they hope to settle the family estate. Otto’s first
impression was that Seese was dating the Dali Lama. Trepidation
floods him when she states, “Otto, Sweeethart…Rinpoche
is going on the trip to North Dakota.” Her brother pretends
not to hear her.


Furthermore, she plans to deed her half of the family farm to the
monk for a spiritual center. Angry and feeling duped, Otto excuses
Rinpoche from the scene. Brother and sister will have a knock-down
fight over Seese’s latest revelation. She’s squandering
her inheritance! Her ardent pleas sound ridiculous, but Otto loses
the argument and agrees to show Rinpoche America. Cecilia’s
words stick with him.


“The country needs help, spiritual help. He’ll change
your life too, if you just let him.”


Though not overweight, one reads into Otto’s fascination with
food choices as a mask for the areas of his life he chooses to
ignore. Rinpoche dubs Otto as “angry” toward life in
general. While the spiritualist meditates, smiles a Cheshire-like
grin and expounds an occasional platitude, Otto plans ahead for the
next lodging space and meal. Chicago is a turning point in his
journey. There, he accompanies the monk to a yoga class and
participates in the activity. Determined to make it through the
postures, his face turning crimson, sweat trickling onto his
clothing, Otto’s fury miraculously subsides. For a brief
time, he has experienced a quietude he has overlooked in an
activity-filled life.


Revelation marches toward Otto like a slow-dripping faucet that
cannot be ignored. Together, the two unlikely companions share
witticism, food, yoga, a round of bowling and silence in the miles
they travel. Rinpoche cautions his driver to slow down the fast
life, to unlearn the cluttered knowledge of a frantic world and to
listen to breathing in a body renewed by yoga. By the time they
exit the fast lanes into the quiet country of rural prairie, Otto
discovers a new understanding of his world. It is there, in his
childhood place, that his final surprise awaits.


Merullo’s skill with the pen enchants the reader with a fresh
awareness of how man confronts his spiritual side in a chaotic
world. The monk’s character is rich with humor, silence and
understanding. It matters not that his audience shares a religious
conviction with this man but that change can occur in a skeptical
soul.


   















Reviewed by Judy Gigstad on December 23, 2010

Breakfast With Buddha
by Roland Merullo

  • Publication Date: August 26, 2008
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Algonquin Books
  • ISBN-10: 1565126165
  • ISBN-13: 9781565126169