Top critical review
2 people found this helpful
on January 15, 2014
These two novellas purport to be true stories selected by the author from many interviews he conducted and recorded. The sense that these are, indeed, real people is very strong in the first novella, but early in the second one I began to be aware of a stylistic similarity in the telling, and concluded that they are both fictional characters. For me, this detracted from the strength of the book. I persisted to the end for the sake of finishing, more out of discipline than pleasure.
In my opinion, the first novella is by far the better story, one that should be read as a cautionary tale for parents who attempt to transmit their religious passions to children. The book's mostly silent, listening author (Bruce Wagner) is the perfect medium to elicit our patience and trust as the tale unfolds; we feel we are being let in on something important. But in the second novella, the storyteller is not the main character but only a witness to the events she talks about. Behind a second layer of narrative the story became too distant for me. I got impatient in spite of Bruce's listening ear and wished he'd done a lot more editing. The stories link up at the end in a way that justifies their pairing, but the conclusion is empty, if not downright bleak.
Full disclosure: I have been fascinated by Buddhism for a long time, but lately my interest has started to fade. I thought this book would help me recover some of my former sense of purpose in the quest for enlightenment, but instead it has confirmed my disillusionment.