Roland Merullo is the author of twenty-two books of fiction and non-fiction, that range from suspense novels (Fidel's Last Days, A Russian Requiem, Revere Beach Boulevard, The Return) to love stories (A Little Love Story, The Talk-Funny Girl, Leaving Losapas) to golf and travel books (Golfing with God, Passion for Golf, The Italian Summer, Taking the Kids to Italy) to humorous spiritual road trips (Breakfast with Buddha, Lunch with Buddha, Dinner with Buddha, The Delight of Being Ordinary, Golfing with God, American Savior). His books have sold hundreds of thousands of copies and been translated across the globe, from China to Brazil,from Korea to Croatia, and he has been the recipient of numerous awards (see below).
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, The Delight of Being Ordinary, will be published by Doubleday on April 11, 2017. It's another humorous story decorated with some serious philosophical/spiritual considerations, and features the Pope and Dalai Lama making an unauthorized road trip around Italy in disguise. This book just received a glowing starred review from Kirkus Reviews. (review below*)
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
For details on specific books, keep reading:
*THE DELIGHT OF BEING ORDINARY [STARRED REVIEW]
A Road Trip With The Pope And The Dalai Lama
Author: Roland Merullo
Review Issue Date: January 15, 2017
Online Publish Date: December 27, 2016
Price ( Hardcover ): $26.95
Publication Date: April 11, 2017
ISBN ( Hardcover ): 978-0-385-54091-9
Another genre-defying installment in Merullo's engaging series of seriocomic religious novels (Dinner with Buddha, 2015, etc.).As the subtitle signals, the leaders of two world religions are our guides on this "road trip," reluctantly accompanied by Pope Francis' cousin and First Assistant Paolo. He has plenty of enemies in the Vatican bureaucracy and is not anxious to give them more ammunition by facilitating his cousin's desire for "an unofficial vacation" with the visiting Dalai Lama. This requires the help of Paolo's estranged wife, Rosa, conveniently the proprietor of a chain of haircutting and makeup salons; she not only crafts their disguises, but voices feminist, secularist doubts about Catholicism and Buddhism while driving a borrowed Maserati with a hair-raising recklessness that alarms her cautious spouse almost more than her challenges to organized religion. Drawing on his apprenticeship as a thriller writer (A Russian Requiem, 1993), Merullo leavens the spiritual questioning with a sharp portrait of emotional and sexual tensions between Paolo and Rosa, plus escalating suspense after news reports cast the disappearance as a kidnapping and Paolo as the perpetrator. The quartet heads toward Lake Como, pausing along the way for biblically-tinged encounters with a shepherd, a prostitute, and a world-weary old movie star wondering why wealth and sex haven't made him happy. Admirers of previous volumes will recognize Merullo's knack for depicting goodness without treacle in his deft portraits of the pope and the Dalai Lama, and a La Dolce Vita-esque party scene spotlights his ability to discern humanity in the most decadent circumstances. There is a bit too much plot and too few moments of the transcendent serenity that formed the most beautiful passages in The Vatican Waltz (2013) and the Buddha trilogy. Nonetheless, it's both moving and unnerving when key characters from those earlier novels reappear at a climactic encounter forecast by the holy men's dreams to suggest that there may be spiritual hope for our battered world. Lucid, unpretentious fiction spotlighting the drama of trying to make the divine part of our everyday lives.
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 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 fourth 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 has a recent novella: Rinpoche's Remarkable Ten-Week Weight Loss Clinic. It 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, 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. His other golf-related books include Passion for Golf; In Pursuit of the Innermost Game, Golfing with God, and The Italian Summer (see below).
Also recently available is The Return. A dark and 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 Publishing has recently reissued The Italian Summer (originally published by Simon and Schuster), 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 (Crown, 2013), 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.
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 television dramas treat much more superficially.
His 2005 novel, Golfing with God, has just been re-optioned for film by Gemfilms.
The actor John Turturro held the option to Leaving Losapas for ten years.
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 bravely overcoming 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.
Several old favorites--Leaving Losapas, A Russian Requiem, Passion for Golf, Revere Beach Boulevard, and Revere Beach Elegy, have also been reissued from AJAR Contemporaries, in print form and as e-books. AJAR has also brought out Merullo'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 firstname.lastname@example.org to sign up for his popular monthly newsletter (essays, giveaways, serialized stories, announcements).