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About Roland Merullo
Much in demand as a speaker, Merullo has given informal talks, commencement, and convocation speeches at colleges and universities in New England, California, Florida, North Carolina, Minnesota, and Nebraska, as well as at open-minded churches of various denominations and hundreds of libraries, schools, and community organizations.
His latest novel, Once Night Falls, will be published on December 1, 2019. The book was selected as a November pick by Amazon First Read's editors who called the novel "Both epic and intimate in its portrayal of World War II Italy." They continued by saying, "Merullo expertly illuminates the war's devastation of the country and its culture. ...So immediate, it plunges the reader into this harrowing time, making the story--and the chapter of history--feel intensely personal. ...The book is unflinching in its portrayal of wartime turmoil. Yet heroism and hopefulness drive these characters. Once Night Falls is a page-turning, propulsive read, and the stakes are always incredibly high. But it is the characters--and the powerful lessons they bestow--that make this is a truly unforgettable story."
Moments of Grace and Beauty: Forty Stories of Kindness, Courage, and Generosity in a Troubled World, a work of nonfiction, was also released in 2019.
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. He's been a carpenter, a cab driver, a Peace Corps volunteer in Micronesia, a college professor, worked for many months on cultural exchange exhibits in the former USSR, and he's traveled to 49 US states and across the northern hemisphere. He currently lives in Massachusetts with his wife Amanda and their two daughters. He can be reached at Roland@RolandMerullo.com.
His many awards and prizes include:
- Massachusetts Book Award in Non-Fiction: Revere Beach Elegy
- Nomination for the prestigious International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award: Breakfast with Buddha
- Massachusetts Book Honor Award in Fiction:American Savior
- One of Publishers Weekly Best Books of 2013 (religious subjects): Vatican Waltz
- American Library Association Alex Award: The Talk-Funny Girl
- Boston Globe's 100 Essential Books of New England: Revere Beach Boulevard
- Finalist LL Winship/PEN New England Prize: Revere Beach Boulevard
- Booklist Editors Choice: In Revere, In Those Days
- Maria Thomas Fiction Prize for Year's Best Novel by a former Peace Corps Volunteer: In Revere, In Those Days
- Kirkus Reviews "Best of 2013" List: Lunch with Buddha
- B.Dalton Discovery Series: Leaving Losapas
- Good Housekeeping's Ten Wonderful Romance Novels: A Little Love Story
His best-selling novel, Breakfast with Buddha, has gone into its 20th 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 and been the focus of numerous community-wide reads from Colorado to Connecticut. 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.
Also based on actual road trips, and also 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 trip from Washington State to North Dakota with the same wonderful characters as its predecessor. In a Starred Review, Kirkus 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 fifth printing and has also been widely translated.
Dinner with Buddha follows the same cast of characters from Breakfast with Buddha and Lunch with Buddha as they make another hilarious, spiritually uplifting road trip across the American west.
Merullo's novella, Rinpoche's Remarkable Ten-Week Weight Loss Clinic, features two of the characters from the Buddha Trilogy. Ostensibly about a weight loss clinic run by the meditation master Volya Rinpoche, this compact and deftly structured story explores aspects of addiction and self-appreciation from a fresh vantage point.
An avid and accomplished golfer, his Ten Commandments of Golf Etiquette, is perfect for those who are new to the game and want to master the complicated dance that is on-course behavior. His other golf-related books include Passion for Golf; In Pursuit of the Innermost Game, Golfing with God, and The Italian Summer.
The Return is a dark and thrilling sequel to Revere Beach Boulevard and follows the lives of a circle of people who are linked by one man's addiction.
Merullo's 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 the author 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.
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. More serious than his other spiritual novels, it tells the intriguing story of a young Catholic woman who believes she is being called by God to become a parish priest.
Merullo's 2005 novel, Golfing with God, has just been re-optioned for film by Gemfilms and the actor John Turturro held the option to Leaving Losapas for ten years.
The Talk-Funny Girl, a 2011 Alex Award winner, 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, that is, a person who bravely overcomes some past trauma, whether that be the stress of war, illness, divorce, addiction, or early abuse. The Alex Awards are given to ten books written for adults that have special appeal to young adults, ages 12 through 18.
Please watch Roland's FaceBook page for news of upcoming workshops and events or visit his website www.rolandmerullo.com to sign up for his popular monthly newsletter (essays, giveaways, serialized stories, announcements).
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Roland Merullo, bestselling author of Once Night Falls, returns with a galvanizing historical novel of Nazi-occupied Naples and the rage and resistance of a people under siege.
Italy, 1943. The Nazi occupation has cemented its grip on the devastated city of Naples.
Giuseppe DiPietra, a curator in the National Archives, has a subversive plan to aid the Allies. If he’s discovered, forced labor or swift execution. Lucia Pastone, secretary for the Italian Fascist government, is risking her own life in secret defiance of orders. And Lucia’s father, Aldo, is a black marketeer who draws Giuseppe and Lucia into the underworld—for their protection and to help plant the seeds of resistance. Their fates are soon intertwined with those of Aldo’s devoted lover and a boy of the streets who’ll do anything to live another day. And all of Naples is about to join forces to overcome impossible odds and repel the Nazi occupiers.
Inspired by a true historic uprising, From These Broken Streets is a richly layered novel of the extraordinary daring of ordinary people whose bonds of love, family, and unfaltering courage could not be broken.
A harrowing historical novel of the extraordinary acts of ordinary people in Nazi-occupied Italy.
Italy, 1943. Luca Benedetto has joined the partisans in their fight against the German troops ravaging the shores of his town on Lake Como. While risking his life to free his country, Luca is also struggling to protect Sarah, his Jewish lover who’s hiding in a mountain cabin. As the violent Nazi occupation intensifies, Luca and Sarah fear for more than their own lives.
In the heart of their village, their mothers have also found themselves vulnerable to the encroaching Nazis. But Luca’s mother, undeterred, is devising her own revenge on the occupiers. With Mussolini deposed and Allied armies fighting their way up the peninsula, the fate of Italy hangs in the balance, and the people of Lake Como must decide how much they’re prepared to sacrifice for family, friends, and the country they love.
The most trying of times will create the most unexpected heroes and incredible acts of courage in this stirring narrative as seen through the eyes of those devastated by war-torn Italy.
Roland Merullo’s playful, eloquent, and life-affirming novel finds the world’s two holiest men teaming up for an unsanctioned road trip through the Italian countryside--where they rediscover the everyday joys and challenges of ordinary life.
During the Dalai Lama’s highly publicized official visit to the Vatican, the Pope suggests an adventure so unexpected and appealing that neither man can resist: they will shed their robes for several days and live as ordinary men. Before dawn, the two beloved religious leaders make a daring escape from Vatican City, slip into a waiting car, and are soon traveling the Italian roads in disguise. Along for the ride is the Pope’s neurotic cousin and personal assistant, Paolo, who--to his terror-- has been put in charge of arranging the details of their disappearance. Rounding out the group is Paolo’s estranged wife, Rosa, an eccentric entrepreneur with a lust for life, who orchestrates the sublime disguises of each man. Rosa is a woman who cannot resist the call to adventure--or the fun.
Against a landscape of good humor, intrigue, and spiritual fulfillment, The Delight of Being Ordinary showcases the uniquely charming sensibilities of author Roland Merullo. Part whimsical expedition, part love story, part spiritual search, this uplifting novel brings warmth and laughter to the universal concerns of family life, religious inspiration, and personal identity—all of which combine to transcend cultural and political barriers in the name of a once-in-a-lifetime adventure.
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.
In Roland Merullo’s Breakfast with Buddha an inveterate skeptic and a world-renowned spiritual master set off across America; the Boston Globe raved, “Enlightenment meets On the Road, in this witty, insightful novel.” Now, some eight years later, the world has spun a few times, and what had been certainties in both men’s lives have proved fleeting. Otto’s future is less than clear after the death of his wife, the departure of his children to make their own lives, and the loss of the only remaining structure in his life--his long-held job. For Rinpoche, the changes have been less daunting but nonetheless dramatic, as the encroachment of both technology and daily society threaten the solitude and peace of his North Dakota retreat, and he has been forced to acknowledge (as other good and intelligent people have) that his mysteriously gifted young daughter may be the next Dalai Lama.
So Otto and Rinpoche--seeking understanding, insight, and some new road-trip adventures--travel deep into the center of America: to Indian reservations and blighted farming towns, on a hike up the Great Sand Dunes and skinny dipping on the high planes, and from the heart of Colorado’s New Age culture to the classically nonspiritual streets of Las Vegas, where the answer to “What does the future hold?” may be found residing on the top floor of a luxury casino.
Rich with humor and wise in its commentary on modern American life, Dinner with Buddha takes us along on an exhilarating path to self-discovery with two of the most intriguing men in modern fiction, whose lives seem to be forever entwined.
It is easier to write about the evil in the world than about the good. Writers who focus on violence,greed, ugliness, and hypocrisy can appear more sophisticated, more intelligent, more mature, more aware of the world's true nature. Merullo recognizes these challenges to humankind as clearly as anyone, but also believes they get more than their share of coverage, and that cargo of bad news can act as an oppressive weight on the mind.
Moments of Grace and Beauty is intended to serve as a counterweight to the abundance of trouble in the news, and is offered as evidence of the goodwill still present on earth.
A novel both literary and suspenseful, Revere Beach Boulevard tells the story of a family that rallies around an errant son, even as a long-hidden secret that has touched all their lives comes to the surface. Peter Imbesalacqua has bent the rules and battled a gambling addiction for most of his adult life. Now, his real-estate business in shambles and his life in danger because of an unpaid debt, he spins at the center of a hurricane of love and risk. His parents, sister, and friends, all carrying their own secrets, find themselves drawn into the terrifying storm, each trying to do for Peter what he must ultimately do--or fail to do--for himself. Revere Beach Boulevard is a rich and heartfelt novel that looks deeply into the secret places in men's and women's hearts, places only great fiction can reveal.
"These characters have been alive in my imagination for a decade now," Merullo says, "and I just had the sense that Rinpoche, out of his deep compassion, would try to do something about America's obesity epidemic. I've also been fascinated for a long time by the way addiction works—whether it's addiction to food, drugs, alcohol, sex, work, or anything else—the way it occupies the mind and moves us to do things we know we would be better off not doing. I've always wondered what advice Rinpoche would give on the subject."
Known—across twenty books, scores of essays, and twenty-five years of publishing—for being willing to try his hand at an unusually wide variety of themes, subjects, and genres, here Merullo works for the first time in the novella form, putting together a deft, moving, and tightly compressed tale that includes his trademark mix of spiritual inquiry and ordinary human emotions.
"This story is about the challenge of losing weight, yes," the author says, "but there's a twist to it at the end, and that opens into a wider territory. I tried to approach it with a full appreciation for the difficulty of breaking old habits, and I gave up a beloved food myself for ten weeks, just to keep things honest."
While it does not promise to help readers with their troublesome eating habits or other addictions, Rinpoche's Remarkable Ten-Week Weight Loss Clinic does look at those painful issues from a fresh angle, one full of sympathy and wisdom. It will certainly please lovers of the Buddha Trilogy, and perhaps bring new fans to the hundreds of thousands who've already enjoyed the travels and conversations of Otto and his enlightened teacher.
Herman “Hank” Fins-Winston was a professional golfer destined for greatness. Now he lives in a condominium on the thirteenth fairway of one of heaven’s glorious courses—a fact he finds surprising, since for one reason or another, a fair percentage of golfers never make it to paradise . . . and Hank wasn’t exactly an angel on Earth.
Hank is having the time of his afterlife, until he’s summoned one idyllic morning to play a round with the Almighty. It seems that God is having some trouble with putting. As they play the heavenly courses, both in paradise and back on earth, Hank comes to realize that what began as a golf lesson has become a true spiritual journey . . .
“Merullo, author of the critically acclaimed Revere Beach trilogy, writes with wit and subtlety rather than trying to pound inspiration into our heads with a titanium driver. And, best of all, he gets the golf right: precise, well-constructed descriptions of courses and shot making, revealing a respect for the game itself, not just its potential as metaphor.” —Booklist