“With six unconventionally religious novels to date, this brave, meditative author has carved a unique niche in American literature.” —Kirkus Reviews, starred review
“Merullo offers keen insight into and intelligent assessments of modern American life, but it is his compassionate portrait of a grieving Otto in search of inner tranquility that is most affecting.” —Booklist
“Merullo masterfully depicts the struggles of practicing mindfulness moment by moment . . . [the] novel is full of nuanced, thoughtful prose and is an immensely satisfying conclusion to the series.”—Publishers Weekly
“Otto is such a full human, which is why we can empathize with his questions and immerse ourselves in his experiences. In the end, we are all humanized by the spiritual journey of Dinner with Buddda.” —Spirituality and Practice
From the Author
What started out as a simple road trip from New York to North Dakota has evolved into a trilogy -- Breakfast with Buddha, Lunch with Buddha, and, soon, Dinner with Buddha. In Breakfast, my original intention was to introduce an ordinary American, Otto Ringling, to the wisdom of the East, especially their emphasis on meditation and contemplation. Once I got started along that path, though, I realized that I'd have to walk with him (or, I guess, ride with him, since they are all road-trip books) deeper into the sometimes exhilarating, sometimes discouraging forest of a true spiritual life.
I wanted him to have a deepening understanding of himself and of the world he inhabits. In order to do that, I needed to take him through love as well as loss and epiphany as well as disappointment. And, since I see these novels, also, as observations on modern American life, I wanted him to see other parts of this great nation. Lunch takes him and Rinpoche (and sometimes other family members) from Seattle to North Dakota. Dinner takes them from North Dakota, through the West's wide-open spaces, and deposits them in a city not exactly known for its emphasis on things spiritual.
Though all three books have a spiritual/philosophical core, I'm not out to preach or convert. What I try to do is to explore the larger questions of meaning without simply repeating the tenets of any one faith. I want to take a common-sense look at life, American life especially, a balanced, original, thought-provoking look. Like most of us, Otto is steeped in a Western way of thinking about the world. His is an exterior philosophy: be a good husband, father, and citizen; do no harm, and if there is an afterlife, you will be rewarded. The Eastern way -- best stated, perhaps, by Jesus' line "the kingdom of heaven is within you" -- focuses more on the interior world, on the working of the mind and the techniques one might use to change those patterns that are damaging or unhelpful.
In Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner, I worked to strike a balance between those two world-views, letting Otto keep some of his practical, Midwestern ethics, but also letting him gradually open himself to Rinpoche's focus on the "thought stream", on things interior.
It can be weighty material. I understood that going into the first book and so I did everything I could to make the story strong enough, the characters interesting enough, and the book itself funny enough that it wouldn't come close to the dangerous territory of pious preachery (my word).
The response so far has been absolutely surprisingly wonderful. Six years after its publication, Breakfast continues to sell and continues to be a book club favorite. Lunch, still in its early childhood, shows every sign of following in its older cousin's footsteps. Dinner will be out in the spring of 2015.
I can't see myself going on and on after this trilogy is all in print. But I do have to admit to considering one more piece of Otto's spiritual path, one last step that I need to put him through. I welcome suggestions for a title, but I think that fourth book will be something a little bit different, not an American road trip at all. Maybe an end to the story, if there could possibly be such a thing.