On the surface, LUNCH WITH BUDDHA is a story about family. 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.
In LUNCH WITH BUDDHA, when Otto faces what might be the greatest of life’s difficulties, it is Cecelia who knows how to help him. As she did years earlier in this book’s 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 a road trip made by Otto and Rinpoche, in a rattling pickup, from Seattle 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. They visit American landmarks; they have a variety of meals, both excellent and awful; 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, 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.
ROLAND MERULLO is an awarding-winning author of 24 books including 17 works of fiction: Breakfast with Buddha, a nominee for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, now in its 20th printing; The Talk-Funny Girl, a 2012 ALEX Award Winner and named a "Must Read" by the Massachusetts Library Association and the Massachusetts Center for the Book; Vatican Waltz named one of the Best Books of 2013 by Publishers Weekly; Lunch with Buddha selected as one of the Best Books of 2013 by Kirkus Reviews; Revere Beach Boulevard named one of the "Top 100 Essential Books of New England" by the Boston Globe; A Little Love Story chosen as one of "Ten Wonderful Romance Novels" by Good Housekeeping, Revere Beach Elegy winner of the Massachusetts Book Award for nonfiction, and Once Night Falls, selected as a "First Read" by Amazon Editors.
A former writer in residence at North Shore Community College and Miami Dade Colleges, and professor of Creative Writing at Bennington, Amherst and Lesley Colleges, Merullo has been a guest speaker at many literary events and venues and a faculty member at MFA programs and several writers’ conferences. His essays have appeared in numerous publications including the New York Times, Outside Magazine, Yankee Magazine, Newsweek, the Boston Globe, the Philadelphia Inquirer, Boston Magazine, Reader's Digest, Good Housekeeping, and the Chronicle of Higher Education. Merullo's books have been translated into Spanish, Portuguese, Korean, German, Chinese, Turkish, Bulgarian, Croatian, Slovenian, and Czech.
am notorious for my cynicism. Show me a book that carries an "upbeat" message, and I'll show you a new way to light my wood stove. It's not just the soupiness or the upbeatitude of the message that bothers me, either. After all, we all need our fantasies. Rather it is the implicit arrogance in the proselytism, the smug certainties, and the lack of any sense of irony or humor endemic to this genre.
I love LUNCH WITH BUDDHA,optimism and all, because it lacks all the flaws of the genre I have just described. It is a very funny book, especially in the richness of its characterizations. It is suitably ironic because none of the major characters, not even the great teacher himself, takes himself or herself too seriously. It is a moving book because the problem it pivots on will belong to half of all people in love, sooner or later. It is a gripping book in the depth of the emotional morass from which Otto, the protagonist, tries so hard to remove himself. It is a brave and honorable book because it takes phonies and bigots severely to task, and even raps the knuckles of cynics like me.
Merullo is a skillful writer with a special talent for plot and character. If he wrote more about sex, he would sell more copies, but he is the kind of author who has to be completely comfortable with what he produces. He writes to satisfy his own standards, to bring enjoyment and knowledge to his readers, and not just to sell copies. He is totally authentic, as honest a writer as one can imagine.
In this novel , which is "spiritual" in both the French and English senses of that world, he recognizes that as repulsive as organized religions might appear to folks like me, that revulsion cannot negate the deep need for a spiritual life in each of us. Hard-wired for wonder, like it or not, even the most rational of us wants to pass through some wardrobe door into a world that doesn't make any sense but does so in a way that is holds some grace, even some beauty.
For me, Dostoevsky offers that kind of experience. You need not be a Christian to accept his sense of true goodness. I feel the same way about Blaise Pascal,that most poetic of mathematicians and most touching of Christian apologists.
Merullo is less specific than either of these. He has no doctrine. No Christian, neither is he anything else easily defined. By the end of this book, however, with all its rollicking action and brilliantly-drawn characters, with all its gentle satire and vivid portraits of the West, I enjoyed a kind of relief, a kind of spiritual easing, that I have not felt in decades.
To tell the truth, that feeling didn't last. But that might be more my fault than the fault of this fine new novel.
First Sentence: JFK was an asylum, a processing plant, a study in chaos - snaking likes, recorded announcements, furious passengers with their taped-up baggage, clerks fielding complaints in the midst of the madness.
Favorite quote: But most of us have our fussy spots, our territories of indulgence, don't we? Coffee, wine, an obsession with watching sports or with travel, cars, or clothing, a passion for hiking, an addiction to sex, work, cocaine, shopping, talking?
I loved this book. It was funny, thoughtful, comical, a bit deep in places and it made me think about some things. I adore that when a book has me thinking. They travel around and near right where I live, so much of the book I knew right where they were. I cannot wait to read the third and last book of the series Dinner with Buddha.
Lunch with Buddha by Roland Merullo is the continuation of a family's story that began with Breakfast With Buddha. I was initially not thinking to read the first one until I saw that several of my GoodReads friends had given it high ratings. I liked Breakfast so much that I had no hesitation to jump in for Lunch; and now I've already started reading Dinner With Buddha.
LUNCH WITH BUDDHA is the continuing story about the family of Otto Ringling and his sister Cecelia. They 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 much more in common than just their North Dakota roots.
In LUNCH WITH BUDDHA, when Otto faces what might be the greatest of life’s difficulties, it is Cecelia who knows how to help him. As she did years earlier in this book’s 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. The balance of the book is focused on the events experienced on the road trip. 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. They visit American landmarks; they have a variety of meals, both excellent and awful; 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, 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. (less)
I am still trying to process this book. That is why I only gave it 3 stars. I might need to go back and change the rating later, but something about it just didn't sit right with me. I felt Otto was more worried about food than anything else. There was more time spent on his own musing than instruction from Rinpoche.
In Breakfast with Buddha, I felt I was learning right along with Otto. I was coming to new understandings. I was growing. I felt a sense of wonderment and joy at Rinpoche's words. Is did not feel that in Lunch with Buddha. There was a lot of foreshadowing of a future book, and I hope that book comes to fruition, because I really need closure with these characters.
Much of this book deals with the death of a loved one, and feeling alone after that person dies. I am no stranger to death. I struggled with understanding it many years ago, and maybe because I am not in that place myself, this book didn't connect as much. Or maybe it is because I believe I will see my loved ones again-- that they are not gone. I'm just not sure.
What I did get from this book is a reminder to let people be. Love people no matter who they are- homosexual, homeless man, twanswestite, Muslim, Jew, etc. The other overwhelming message I got is that we have stop looking at the faults of others, and instead look at our own faults, and work on those faults.
Overall a good book, but not what I was expecting.
Following the death of his wife, middle-aged Otto travels to Washington State with his two college-age children to spread Jeanie’s ashes at a site special to the couple. After an emotional gathering with his family, he embarks on a road trip across the American West with his sister’s husband, Volya Rinpoche, a world-renowned spiritual man and teacher of Buddhism.
As on the pair’s previous road trip a few years before, Otto tries to teach Rinpoche about American culture and Rinpoche bestows spiritual lessons upon Otto. The two men experience the beautiful bounty of the untamed West while Otto struggles with the loss of his wife and searches for peace of mind through the teachings of the spiritual master.
I liked this book, but I didn’t love it. I’m all about road trip novels, afflicted by wanderlust as I am, and although I’m not religious, I am interested in the philosophical teachings of different religious traditions. A book about taking a road trip with a Buddhist spiritual leader is right up my alley. However, although I enjoyed this book, I didn’t feel the emotional connection I was hoping for.
I also was thrown off by the little, seemingly false notes Otto senses in Rinpoche. Instead of seeing him entirely as a spiritual, enlightened man, Otto perceives some of Rinpoche’s actions to be phony, an act. For example, Rinpoche, who hails from the Siberian region between China and Russa, seems to speak English worse now than he did when Otto met him many years ago; in the last few years, he has picked up some linguistic quirks that he didn’t have before, such as pronouncing “very” as “wery.” Maybe these observations are more reflective of Otto’s cynicism than Rinpoche’s spiritual sincerity, but they were a little bit off-putting.
Another thing that bothered me was how Otto seems to think everything is about him all the time — everything Rinpoche or his sister, Cecelia, does MUST somehow be a lesson for him. It doesn’t matter how obscure the connection is; Otto WILL figure out how Rinpoche’s wanting to ride a water slide or Seese’s making plans to prolong their trip is meant to teach him some valuable spiritual lesson. It seemed quite self-centered, but maybe that should be expected from a man who is grieving his wife’s death and is on a road trip with a spiritual leader, trying to piece his life back together?
These were really only minor annoyances in a book that I really did enjoy. It was funny and sad and touching, and I love reading about different regions of the U.S. This country is so beautiful, and I feel incredibly lucky to have seen as much of it as I have, but I yearn to travel more and experience the incredible vistas America has to offer. I loved the descriptions of the land, the towns, and the people Otto and Rinpoche met along the road.
Lunch with Buddha is the sequel to Breakfast with Buddha, a novel about Otto’s first road trip with Rinpoche. I haven’t read the first book, but it wasn’t a detriment to my reading experience. The previous trip is alluded to a few times, but I didn’t feel as if I was missing important information for not having read it. Merullo did a great job making this book stand on its own despite being a sequel. I’m not sure if I’ll read Breakfast with Buddha, but Lunch with Buddha was an enjoyable read.
Parts of this book are better than Breakfast with Buddha, and some parts are worse. Unfortunately, the book is much more depressing, due to its subject matter and events since Breakfast. However, the Buddhist theories are interesting and explained so well by my favorite fictional Tibetan-ish Monk, the Rinpoche. Again, our narrator gets a little irritating and the end is again slightly stupid (I don't mince words). But I am looking forward to Supper or Dinner with Buddha, which is suppose to come out in Summer 2015.
I expected the sequel to Breakfast with Buddha to fall short of my joy with Merullo's first book in this series. Instead, I was completely satisfied. I won't provide any spoilers; however, the range of emotions this book touches held my attention in every chapter. The audiobook version was well done, as was Breakfast. Can't wait to begin Dinner!
Otto and his now brother-in-law, Rinpoche are on the road again. Somehow this trip was not as satisfying as the first (Breakfast With Buddha). There is a lot of sadness as Otto's family tries to come to terms with the death of wife/mother/sister-in-law, Jeannie. There is a disturbing sub-context about the possible future of Celia and Rinpoche's daughter, Shelsa. And, just generally, less levity this time around. The quirky and thoughtful characters are all here, the life and spiritual lessons are still threaded throughout to be pondered upon but... I don't know. Though I enjoyed the book, I ended it feeling disappointed. Apparently there will be at least one more book in this series - trilogy? Maybe when they are all tied together I will feel differently. I hope so because this is a far cry from my usual exuberance over Merullo's work.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Perhaps this deserves a 5 star; however, I found it a little slow going through the beginning, unlike "Breakfast with Buddha". Probably, because we already know Otto and Rinpoche, it's six years later, Otto is practicing meditation regularly, and they are on another 6-day road trip. That said, I love Merullo's writing, his humor, his thoughtfulness, his life discussions with "Volvo". There seemed to be less 'teaching' in this book (Rinpoche to Otto) and more of Otto's insights and checking in with Rinpoche for clarification. Because death and afterlife continues to be of significant importance and interest to me, I found this book especially appealing. And Merullo has a gift for creating another memorable and poignant conclusion that had me, once again, weeping and smiling--my heart full. I'm ready for "Dinner".
I thoroughly enjoyed this very interesting sequel to Breakfast with Buddha, altho I liked Breakfast from the minute I began reading; was part way into Lunch before it really grabbed my attention. The author's descriptions of the states/countryside/people as these 2 travelers make their way from the west coast to North Dakota made me feel like I was right there with them -- and now I want to visit these same locations! As I read the book I wondered how much of the descriptions were authentic and how much was part of the author's imagination. Loved finding out that the author and his family made this trip before he starting writing this book - so his imagination only lent itself to the story and the conversations, communication, interactions between the characters.
This book was good but not as good as Breakfast with Buddha. This story deals with Otto Ringling, the main character, losing his wife to a terrible 2 year illness. Soon thereafter, he realizes both of his children will be off at college and he will be all alone. They set out on a family trip once again spending time with his good friend and brother in law, Volya Rinpoche. Volya and Otto's sister have a beautiful and very special daughter which makes the story even more interesting. This extended family work together to get through their grief and end up with different views for the next chapter in their lives. Runnette is the perfect narrator for both books and I am excited that he also narrates Dinner with Buddha which just came out in June 2015.
I loved "Breakfast with Buddha" - but this one is even better - and deeper. I love the way Merullo develops Otto's character and gradually takes him to a different level. Otto Ringling in "Lunch with Buddha" would not have been possible without his experiences in 'Breakfast with Buddha." The way Rinpoche shows him that there is more to life than being a good person in the first book enables Otto to slowly develop a more spiritual life, in spite of the tragedy in his life. I can't wait for "Dinner with Buddha" - for that is certainly to come!
Some months ago I read "Breakfast With Buddha" which I really enjoyed. After that book I knew at some point I wanted to read number two in the series. I really like the two main characters: Otto, a successful cookbook editor living in the New York City area and Rinpoche, a "famous" holy man and brother-in-law to Otto. Their experiences together on a road trip beginning in Washington State are a delight and the best part of this book. Otto is struggling with many doubts after the loss of his beloved wife and the book deals with Rinpoche providing spiritual lessons along the way. At times, Otto is a difficult pupil who tries to find solace externally while Rinpoche urges him to look ever deeper into his internal self. At one point I found the book to be quite touching and emotional. I think I liked this one a little more than "Breakfast" as it gave more to think about. Both books have made me realize the benefits of meditation, something I would like to begin practicing. Although I don't agree with all the religious teachings of this book, it has inspiring moments. I found it well written, at times humorous and endearing. I look forward to reading "Dinner With Buddha" as well.
I like the premise of this book: it's a novel about a man recovering from his wife's death. He takes a trip to a place that they loved at the beginning of the marriage, accompanied by his grown son and daughter and his sister and her husband, who is a mindfulness/meditation guru. At the point I stopped reading, the protagonist and his brother-in-law are embarking on the return trip home together, where presumably the two will learn important lessons from one another.
The writing style is fine but I'm just not engaged by it; and I'm just feeling that the brother-in-law character is portrayed as a bit too eccentric, too good to be true. That may say more about me than it says about the book or its author; but in any event I find that I prefer reading about topics like mindfulness and enlightenment in a less novelistic setting (as I am currently doing with the Jack Kornfield book I am into right now).
Not sure if I will ever return to this. It was recommended by the goodreads friend with whom I do frequent Buddy Reads, and I trust him, so it may be worth a second look in the future.
Just like Breakfast with Buddha, this book filled me with waves of emotion, longing for inner peace, moments of deep introspection, and a secret wish that Rinpoche was real. Merullo does such an incredible job of weaving spiritual ideas seamlessly into a fictional story, and brings the often confusing/out-of-reach Buddhist teachings seem within reach. I highly recommended Breakfast AND Lunch (in that order) for those interested in learning about spirituality but find the usual books too intimidating.
I LOVE this series. This novel tracks Otto's grief from the family memorial service for his wife in Washington, thru another roadtrip with Rinpoche (funny but packed with lots of "lessons"), to some growth in his understanding of the interior life. Otto is so relatable and real, someone who struggles with the chaotic mind and dislike of boredom like I do. His progress is realistic and lovely.
Lunch with Buddha is a sequel to Breakfast with Buddha. A charming, insightful, non-threatening roadtrip for the soul. After Otto Ringling spreads his wife's ashes at a small lake in rural Washington, he embarks on yet another roadtrip with his now brother-in-law, Volya Rinpoche, a spiritual master from the Russian Buddhist tradition, back to North Dakota.
Otto's children have grown since the first book, his son a college athlete and his daughter set to enter her first year of college on the east coast. Volya has married Otto's sister and started a retreat center in North Dakota on farmland once the property of his parents who were killed in a car accident. Added to the family is a six year old girl, daughter to Volya and Cecilia, who has been identified by her spiritual parents as a great being born into the world to bring change.
Like Breakfast with Buddha, Merullo relies on the formula of the roadtrip to bring Otto and Rinpoche together for an extended period of time. Otto likes and respects his brother-in-law and has, we come to find out, even embraced some of Rinpoche's spiritual teachings and practices during the past six years. But when his wife dies a long and painful death, Otto is thrown into despair and falls out of practice. His heart is heavy. His mind is in turmoil. Recognizing his brother-in-law's pain and discomfort, Rinpoche begins to nudge Otto back towards his abandoned practice, even going so far as to keep suggesting to Otto that he is on the verge of a major breakthrough in understanding.
The storyline is simple. There is no great suspense, no earth shaking revelations, nothing that really sets this book apart except for how genuinely delightful Merullo's words resonate in the heart and soul. The beauty of this book is the ease at which Merullo identifies and invites one to look at the world differently and consider the value of meditation. Along the way his descriptions of the American landscape in the northern and western United States makes one want to get in a car and go see everything Otto and Rinpoche saw as they traveled east.
Merullo writes with a sincerity and emotional honesty that makes it easy to feel Otto's pain. To feel both the loss of a loved one to death and the loss many parents feel when their children are old enough to leave home and step into their lives. Lunch with Buddha is simply a joy to read whether or not you are on a spiritual path.
My first experience with reading Roland Merullo was "Dinner with Buddha," the third in his Buddha series of which Lunch with Buddha was the second. All three of the "Buddha" books were excellent and I have also read four other Merullo books which were also excellent. Lunch with Buddha, like the other spiritual fiction books penned by Merullo, depicts a journey wherein various incidents allow for spiritual lessons, making the journey both a physical journey as well as a spiritual one. Each book works well as a travel story: road trips move from one place to another, usually a lesser known or out of the way location, and present the central character's impression of the various locales. Each locales also plays host to some sort of spiritual lesson, parables for larger spiritual teachings. In this way, the novelist presents some great, profound spiritual theology as applied to real-life type situations. Merullo's use of a fiction to provide enlightenment and spiritual truths allows him to reach an audience who might not otherwise reach for a book of philosophy or spirituality. It is a great idea and succeeds well both in its philosophic aims and in offering interesting and engaging fiction. A particular strength of these books is that they present the spirituality philosophy of the mystic who is cornerstone of each religion--Buddha in this case, Jesus in "American Savior"--rather than the theological interpretation of those philosophies as presented by the "organized religions" that formed after the mystic had died. In fact, the books frequently include episodes wherein the theological points are directly criticized. In Lunch with Buddha, for example, the theological heresy of "God Hates Fags" and of any theology that includes judgment, intolerance, hatred and calls for violence are all directly portrayed and unmasked for the frauds they are. This book and its two companion volumes makes good fiction, good philosophy and good reading.
Otto Ringling and his unconventional guru Volya Rimpoche are back, this time trying to make sense of death. Otto's wife has passed away and as he struggles with bereavement, he also faces the fear of his own mortality. As Otto opens his heart to inner life, he realizes that his doubts and fears are simply thoughts, and those may always be observed and altered.
Life constantly blinds us to our truest selves. We have two paths before us: the same way, or a different way. In meditation we can see things more clearly because it helps us observe our thoughts or actions, so we can choose a better path. We can sense our highest intelligence, our biggest Self: perhaps what others call God. We can never have all the answers, but there is an abundance of good inside all of us. One positive thought inside one person's head translates into a million positive ripples all around.
I hesitated before buying this book because it's a sequel to "Breakfast with Buddha", which I loved, but my experience with sequels so far hasn't been good. Still, I went ahead and am glad I did. The characters are relatable, familiar, and believable, and Merullo offers a light, friendly narrative that makes you want keep reading and thinking about life and the wisdom of buddhist principles.
Wonderful. So honest and funny, despite the deep existential issues that Otto is facing on this one (I'm comparing it with Breakfast with Buddha, of course). I missed Otto and Volya - it was so comforting to be on a road trip with them again. I was genuinely happy for Otto, he gave me hope as to my own internal processes with bereavement and spirituality. I want to start Dinner with Buddha right away but I feel like I need to savor this book a little longer.
Merullo's writing is so elegant. He never overdoes it. I particularly like the stream of consciousness bits. They properly and beautifully describe meditation and, well, thinking itself. If I were ever to write a book, I wish he could be my editor :)
This book follows on the heels of "Breakfast with Buddha" which I also really enjoyed. Both stories involve road trips in which Otto the main character and his friend (now brother in law) Rinpoche have terrific adventures and great conversations. In this book, Otto's wife has recently died and the family is meeting out west to spread her ashes in a loved spot by a river. Otto is trying to deal with his grief and changing relationship with his almost adult children. It deals with weighty subjects in a humorous and compassionate way. I'm really hoping the author is inspired to continue with "Dinner with Buddha"
This was an interesting book that combines road trip, spiritual exploration, and life-changing events. The main character lost his wife and began a road trip with his children and brother-in-law who is a spiritual leader. Otto is searching for some understanding of what his life means after the death of his beloved wife and what the future holds for both himself and his grown children. The author leaves the door just a bit open to the idea that there's more to life than the things we can measure and explain.
I loved Breakfast With Buddha so much I sent copies to my entire family! Now it seems I will have to do the same for Lunch with Buddha! The books are funny, insightful, sometimes sad, but carry an overall uplifting Buddhist message. They are intuitive teachings, learned through "living" the characters' lives. I look forward to Dinner with Buddha!
Just like *Breakfast with Buddha*, this one reads like an autobiography. It is so authentic, I have to keep telling myself it’s a work of fiction. A beautiful story. Sort of like reading Ekhardt Tolle as a novel.
I am re-reading this one as well, having just finished for the second time Breakfast with Buddha.
I must have missed something. I had high hopes for this book after loving the first. If there was any humor, It was lost among the cynicism and sad resignation. The narrator’s tone reminded me of a pedantic priest’s Sunday sermon, slow and plodding. I only lasted until chapter 8 before giving up on this audiobook.