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Breakfast with Buddha: A Novel Hardcover – September 7, 2007

4.4 out of 5 stars 643 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Merullo, author of the Revere Beach series and Golfing with God, delivers a comic but winningly spiritual road-trip novel. Otto Ringling is a food-book editor and a happily married father of two living in a tony New York suburb. After Otto's North Dakota parents are killed in a car crash, he plans to drive his ebulliently New Age sister, Cecilia, back home to sell the family farm. But when Otto arrives to pick up Cecilia in Paterson, N.J. (where she does tarot readings and past-life regressions), she declares her intention to give her half of the farm to her guru, Volvo Rinpoche, who will set up a retreat there. Cecilia asks Otto to take Rinpoche to North Dakota instead; after a fit of skeptical rage in which he rails internally against his sister's gullibility, he accepts, and the novel is off and running. Merullo takes the reader through the small towns and byways of Midwestern America, which look unexpectedly alluring through Rinpoche's eyes. Well-fed Western secularist Otto is only half-aware that his life might need fixing, and his slow discovery of Rinpoche's nature, and his own, make for a satisfying read. A set piece of Otto's chaotic first meditation session is notably hilarious, and the whole book is breezy and affecting. (Oct.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Bookmarks Magazine

With Breakfast with Buddha, Roland Merullo, the author of seven books, including the critically acclaimed Revere Beach Trilogy and A Little Love Story (HHHH Selection Jan/Feb 2006), takes on one of the oldest and most popular literary genres—the road novel. Authors from Chaucer to Twain to Kerouac have already written journey-focused masterpieces, and some critics pointed out that Merullo isn’t necessarily doing anything new in this novel. However, as the Washington Post declares, "Yes, it’s all formulaic, but it’s such a sweet formula!" Despite the presence of a few mechanical scenes and characters, reviewers appreciated Merullo’s engaging writing style and his light and joyous treatment of what could have been very heavy-handed spiritual material.
Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 323 pages
  • Publisher: Algonquin Books; First Edition edition (September 7, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1565125525
  • ISBN-13: 978-1565125520
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 1.6 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (643 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #413,312 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Roland Merullo was born in Boston and raised in the working-class city of Revere, Massachusetts. He had a scholarship to Exeter Academy and graduated in 1971, attended Boston University for two years, transferred to Brown and graduated from Brown in 1975, then earned a Master's there--in Russian Studies-- in 1976. Roland has published twelve novels and seven books of non-fiction, and given talks at hundreds of universities, schools, bookstores, and other venues. He currently lives in Massachusetts with his wife Amanda and their two daughters. He can be reached via his website: RolandMerullo.com. or at Roland@RolandMerullo.com

Merullo has a new novel out: Dinner with Buddha follows the cast of characters from Breakfast with Buddha and Lunch with Buddha as they make another hilarious, spiritually uplifting road trip across the American west. The paperback version will be out in April, 2016.

He's also recently come out with a small book on golf etiquette, The Ten Commandments of Golf Etiquette, which is perfect for those who are new to the game and want to master the complicated dance that is on-course behavior.

Also recently available from PFP is The Return. A thrilling sequel to Revere Beach Boulevard, it follows the lives of a circle of people who are linked by one man's addiction.

His humorous travel memoir, Taking the Kids to Italy, is a light read that tells the story of a disastrous family trip to Italy. Everything that could possibly go wrong, did go wrong, from illness to cold houses, but Merullo shines the light of laughter on all of it and creates a story that will appeal to armchair travelers and to any family that has met with vacation challenges.

PFP has recently reissued The Italian Summer, a memoir of a summer Merullo's family spent at Lake Como. With lush descriptions of meals and portraits of various characters (and various golf adventures) this book belongs on the shelf with Taking the Kids to Italy.

His novel, Vatican Waltz, received starred reviews from Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, and Library Journal and was chosen by Publishers Weekly as one of the five best books of 2013 on the subject of religion. It tells the intriguing story of a young Catholic woman who believes she is being called by God to become a parish priest. Provocative without being irreverent, this book dovetails nicely with the changes being initiated by Pope Francis.

He's also the "as told to" writer of John DiNatale's memoir, The Family Business, which is the story of DiNatale's decades as a Boston private eye. Full of anecdotes both personal and professional, The Family Business provides an inside look into a profession that TV shows always get wrong.

Still available in various formats (including a collector's edition) is Merullo's 2012 novel, Lunch with Buddha, the long-awaited sequel to Breakfast with Buddha. Lunch with Buddha details a road trip from Washington State to North Dakota with the same wonderful characters as its predecessor. In a Starred Review, Kirkus Magazine called it, "a beautifully written and compelling story about a man's search for meaning that earnestly and accessibly tackles some well-trodden but universal questions. A quiet meditation on life, death, darkness and spirituality, sprinkled with humor, tenderness and stunning landscapes." Lunch with Buddha recently went into a fourth printing and will soon be available--like Breakfast and Dinner-- in audio format.

For more details go to LunchwithBuddha.com or Roland Merullo's FaceBook page or website.

His best-selling novel, Breakfast with Buddha, has gone into its 19th printing and has sold over 200,000 copies. Like Golfing with God before it, and American Savior after it, Breakfast with Buddha treats questions of philosophy/spirituality from a multi-denominational viewpoint and with a healthy dose of humor. The novel has become a favorite with book clubs all over the country. It was based on an actual trip Merullo took from New York to North Dakota, most of it in the company of his wife and daughters. Another novel, Golfing with God, has just been re-optioned for film by Gemfilms. And American Savior has also just been optioned for film.

His Alex Award-winning 2011 novel, The Talk-Funny Girl, now out in paperback, is the story of a teenage girl in rural New Hampshire who escapes an abusive home life in a most unusual way. It follows a theme that can be found in almost all Merullo's books: a person overcoming some past trauma, whether that be the stress of war, illness, divorce, addiction, or early abuse.

The Alex Awards are given by the Young Adult Library Services Association to ten books written for adults that have special appeal to young adults, ages 12 through 18.

Several old favorites--Leaving Losapas, A Russian Requiem, Passion for Golf, Revere Beach Boulevard, and Revere Beach Elegy, have just been reissued from AJAR Contemporaries, in print form and as e-books. AJAR has also brought out Roland's small book of writing advice, Demons of the Blank Page. Roland does a bit of private editing and ghostwriting and runs workshops based on this book at libraries and other venues. Watch his FaceBook page for news of these workshops or go to RolandMerullo.com and sign up for his monthly newsletter.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Otto Ringling is your typical American: upper middle class, happily married, one boy, one girl, one decent-paying job. House, picket fence, nine yards of the "whole" variety. But Otto's in store for an atypical ride when his "New Age" sister, Cecilia, asks that he allow a guru named Rinpoche to ride shotgun with him from Jersey to North Dakota.

The premise is a bit far-out, forcing Merullo to negotiate an opening that attempts to make it all feasible. This takes time and doesn't entirely succeed, but eventually we settle in for this "road novel" with the grumpy Doubting Otto (Thomas was busy) behind the wheel and the beatific, beaming Volya Rinpoche (the Dalai Lama was busy) riding shotgun.

On the Road (sorry, Jack), we're treated to all manner of fun and games, both physical and verbal. The physical comes compliments of Rinpoche's naivete in all things American. The verbal comes in the form of cynical Otto trying to trip Mr. Mystical up (he fails, of course, every time).

If you like philosophy or religion, if you are middle-aged and have given any thought to that Mortality fellow creeping up behind you, or if you have ever asked the clichéd question, "What's the meaning of life, anyway?" then this is a book for you. Rinpoche claims he isn't Buddhist, and his words show how well-versed Merullo is in many religions, not just Buddhism, but nevertheless, our charming man of wisdom, swathed in maroon robe, comes off in a Zen kind of way. Thus, readers with an interest in the East will be treated to an easy, story-based introduction to Buddhism (which goes down much easier than many of the introductory books you could find in the Eastern religions section of your bookstores).
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I purchased this book after reading a review emailed to me. I am so very happy that I did! Although Buddha is in the title, the book is only obliquely about Buddhism...the secondary character happens to wear a robe and is a guru...this story is about a physical and spiritual journey frought with humor, reflection, good food and pathos. Even casual characters are painted wonderfully by this author, but you are really along to share Otto's journey of self-discovery and I believe every reader will learn much about themselves as they travel through it.

I have a long list of friends and family members waiting to read it and look forward to discussions with them about their take on Otto and Rinpoche.
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I loved reading Breakfast with Buddha. It was an easy and fun read. The story flowed and the characters were interesting and likeable. I could not put it down and then parts of it continued to come back to me throughout the following days. I reread it and shared it with two friends who also loved it. I recommend this book to anyone even if you don't usually read straight novels. I am a mystery reader myself and I loved it.
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Format: Hardcover
What a wonderful way to start the day! This was a quiet thoughtful book. It didn't smack you in the face with life-changing ideas. It seemed to be more of an osmosis-type experience. It was a simple story about a man changing his mind with a little help from his traveling companion. And with that simple premise, the author encompassed so much of the human condition; so much of our commonality, our thoughts, dreams, hopes, questions about life. I closed the book often to contemplate something the holy man had said, to soak it in. I found myself to be so at peace that sometimes I drifted off to sleep with the book in my lap (an attempt at meditation).

The messages in this book will stay with me. I plan to do more reading along this line and it is because of this book.
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Format: Hardcover
Food book editor and ordinary suburbanite dad/husband Otto Ringling drives from New York to North Dakota with improbable passenger, Buddhist guru/yoga master Volya Rinpoche. Is this serious or another Bing & Bob "On the Road" movie to provide guffaws? In the end, it's neither.

The serious spiritual transformation of Ringling is shallow, rushed and predictable. By the very end, it feels phony. Diner conversations about the meaning of life are limpid and meatless: "What matters is how you treat people." "Live a good life. Help people. Meditate. Don't Hurt." And seven days later, a miracle: Otto is transformed.

The comedic aspect falls short, too. Two oddballs, picture Zippy the pinhead and Walter Matthau, leave the planet for seven days to travel in the mash potatoes and gravy of the mid-west. There are some lame scenes where the crimson robed monk is embarrassingly out-of-place (swimming in a Speedo at a Minnesota lake, mini-golfing in Wisconsin) and where Otto struggles in his spiritual awakening (tearing muscles in a yoga class). Amusing possibilities, but Merullo's humor is flat. Bill Bryson's "A Walk in the Woods" interplay with his friend Katz come to mind as far funnier.

In spots, Merullo is very ordinary and humdrum. An entire paragraph devoted to the motel décor in South Bend that depicts Notre Dame football? The observation that football, not Catholicism, is the religion at Notre Dame? C'mon. Cliché. Detailed descriptions of mid-west German restaurants down to the pictures of lederhosen on the walls? Yawn.

Merullo isn't too bad at describing meals. By the time, our boys hit dinner, like ever-famished Otto, we are ready to dive into the New York strip steak and roasted shallots.
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