From Publishers Weekly
Eastern philosophy popularizer and mind-body pioneer Chopra has done novels before, and critics have not found fiction his long suit. That should change with this tale of how the Indian prince Siddhartha came to be the enlightened one, the Buddha. The subject is tailor-made for Chopra. He can draw on what he's familiar with: the ancient Indian culture that shaped the historic personage of the Buddha, and the powers of mind that meditation harnesses. Although the novel begins a little slowly with exposition and character introduction, once the character of the Buddha is old enough to occupy center stage, Chopra simply portrays the natural internal conflict experienced by any human seeking spiritual wisdom and transformation. Centered on a single character, the narrative moves forward simply and inexorably. Especially imaginative and intriguing is the low-key nature of the Buddha's enlightenment experience. In case Chopra's fans want something more direct, an epilogue and concluding "practical guide" offer nonfiction commentary and teaching on core Buddhist principles. Chopra thanks a film director friend for sparking the project, and the novel has clear cinematic potential. This fast and easy-to-read book teaches without being didactic. Chopra scores a fiction winner. (May)
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Chopra is best known for his spiritual how-to books. Here, he turns to fiction (though he adds a how-to epilogue), writing about the life of Prince Siddhartha, who became the Buddha. Chopra divides his book into three parts. The first chronicles the youth of a motherless boy who has a destiny: to be a spiritual leader as foretold by astronomers at his birth. But his powerful father refuses to bow to fate and keeps his son isolated from the world. In the second part, Siddhartha, now a husband and father, sees suffering and decides to leave his life of leisure and become a monk. Despite extreme asceticism and a duel with a demon, enlightenment eludes him. In the final section, Siddhartha sees the error of trying to defeat his body and, in one night, achieves enlightenment and becomes the Buddha. The Buddha's story is compelling, and though Chopra's writing can be overly dramatic and his language flowery, he captures the essence of the spiritual seeker, sometimes shockingly single-minded in the pursuit of illumination. When the novel ends, the explanations begin, with Chopra providing a Q and A about the tenets of Buddhism. Many will find his "answers" as enigmatic as they are enlightening. Ilene CooperCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved