My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Merullo’s “Breakfast with Buddha” is a classic road-trip / odd couple tale. I found it to be engrossing and engaging. It is a book that attempts to convey life lessons as it entertains. In my opinion, this type of book succeeds best when the lessons do not draw too much attention to themselves, but rather subtly plant a seed. In some cases Roland Merullo’s book succeeds on this regard, and in other cases his middle-of-the-road protagonist comes across as a bit preachy and holier-than-thou.
The set up is a road-trip from New Jersey to North Dakota in which a spiritual but only vaguely religious skeptic is joined by a Tibetan Buddhist Rinpoche. The Rinpoche conveys life lessons, largely of a Buddhist nature but somewhat non-denominational, to the protagonist — often at breakfast (hence the title.)
Merullo does a great job creating a character who considers himself spiritual, but who is not so comfortable with spiritualism that is out of line with western rationalism or which expresses religiosity in the doctrinaire Western tradition.
The protagonist, Otto Ringling, undergoes a sort of transformation that is satisfying –though some may find it to have gone a skosh too far.
Those who my Religious Studies professor called Homo religiosis will likely find the book objectionable, but atheologists (not atheists, but those not believing in religion, though believing in god / God / gods) will probably relate to it quite nicely.
I recommend it.