Revere Beach Elegy won the 2000 Massachusetts Book Award for Non-Fiction.
Merullo’s essays have appeared in The New York Times, Outside Magazine, Yankee Magazine, Newsweek, Boston Globe, Philadelphia Inquirer Sunday Magazine, Boston Magazine, Reader's Digest, Good Housekeeping, Travel and Leisure Golf, LINKS, GOLF Magazine, Forbes FYI, AGNI, and The Chronicle of Higher Education. His books have been translated into German, Spanish, Portuguese, and Korean.
Heartbreaking in places, hilarious in others, Lunch with Buddha takes its readers on a quintessentially American road trip across the Northwest. That outer journey, complete with good and bad meals, various outdoor adventures, and an amusing cast of quirky characters, mirrors a more interior journey--a quest for meaning in the hectic routine of modern life.
Otto Ringling, who's just turned 50, is an editor of food books at a prestigious New York publishing house, a middle-of-the-road father with a nice home in the suburbs, children he adores, and a sense of himself as being a mainstream, middle-class American. His sister, Cecelia, is the last thing from mainstream. For two decades she's made a living reading palms and performing past-life regressions. She believes firmly in our ability to communicate with those who have passed on.
In Lunch with Buddha, when Otto faces what might be the greatest of life's emotional challenges, it is Cecelia who knows how to help him. As she did years earlier-- in this book's best-selling 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 the road trip made by Otto and Rinpoche, in a rattling pickup, from Seattle, across the Idaho panhandle and the vast Montana prairie, 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.
During visits to American landmarks, 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, marriage and 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 this engaging follow-up novel. . .Merullo offers readers a hero that's a bit jaded but loving; a little lost but searching. One can't help but root for Otto . . .and hope that he finds the inner peace that, even if he doesn't quite know it, he desperately seeks. . . . 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."
- Kirkus Starred Review
- Tricycle: The Buddhist Review
"LUNCH WITH BUDDHA examines questions that crop up sooner or later for many (most?) of us. Although Volya's wise lectures are helpful to Otto's search for answers, it is the variety of people they meet-and the attitudes [they] carry-that are what provide Otto with the evidence and reminders and motivation to decide to live a certain way....Reading Merullo's novel, I couldn't help but think of Emerson, Thoreau, and Whitman-their great reverence for independent, passionate, non-conformist thought-the different drummer-but never without the accompanying respect for it in others."
-The Salem News
"As we move through life, we search for the little explanations of life and living and making it all come together for us. Lunch with Buddha is a spiritual novel from Roland Merullo that tells the story of Otto Ringling, a man trying to understand the many lessons of his teacher Volya Rinpoche and the constantly shifting view of his complicated life. Lunch with Buddha will ring true with many readers. Highly recommended."
-Midwest Book Review
PFP Publishing is extremely pleased and honored to announce the release of new editions of Merullo's Leaving Losapas, A Russian Requiem, Revere Beach Boulevard and Revere Beach Elegy in print and eBook versions.
A brand new book focusing on the psychological aspects of a writer's craft entitled Demons of the Blank Page has also been published.
A new edition of Passion for Golf: In Pursuit of the Innermost Game was released last Fall.
Praise for Merullo's Work:
"Dazzling... thoughtful and elegant... lyrical yet tough-minded... beautifully written, quietly brilliant." - Kirkus Reviews
A Russian Requiem
"Merullo skillfully explores the lives of ordinary people caught in a dramatic transference of power…it is smoothly written and multifaceted, solidly depicting the isolation and poverty of a city far removed from Moscow and insightfully exploring the psyches of individuals caught in the conflicts between their ideals and their careers." -Publishers Weekly
Revere Beach Boulevard
"A book so full of heart that pages almost pulse with it. Roland Merullo creates a family of flesh and blood and deep feelings." – Linda Crosson, Dallas Morning News
Revere Beach Elegy: A Memoir of Home and Beyond
"Sentimentality is cheap. Real emotion is difficult to render. Memoirists walk a tightrope between sentimentality and simple feeling. What gives Revere Beach Elegy its vitality and 'worth' is the author's taut prose and his fearlessness to run across that tightrope." - Boston Magazine
“…Though storytellers have played a fundamental role in every society from the beginning of human time, in this age of the deification of science and business, such an occupation can seem a mad self-indulgence, even to the storyteller himself. Some days, when I have spent hours fussing over a manuscript - erasing commas, moving paragraphs, fine-tuning a character's speech patterns - I sit down to the evening news and look at the faces of hungry children in North Korea or marchers protesting repression in Burma or Tibet or doctors working to find a cure for cystic fibrosis, and I feel a sour wash of shame. At least, in the years when I worked as a carpenter, I could drive by a customer's house and see the set of steps or deck or garage I had built and know that I was spending my time in a useful manner. But a writer can work on a book for two or five or eight years without knowing if it will ever be published, ever be read by more than a handful of friends and fans, ever serve any worthwhile purpose on this earth.
Still, the obsession continues in so many of us, unabated… Every once in a while you find that word and are able to place it on the page. And every once in a while it turns out to be true for someone else, too. A few years ago, I received a note from a man in Colorado, someone who'd written me a fan letter once before, not long after my third novel was published. He was writing this time to tell me that his sister had just died, a woman who'd struggled for decades with the demon of schizophrenia and who had known something of the neighborhood and family life I'd tried to depict in that book. His sister had suffered through her last days in a coma, in a hospital near Boston. Not knowing what else to do to soothe her, to express his love, his solidarity, his compassion, he sneaked into the intensive care unit at 1 o'clock in the morning, three nights in a row, and read to her for two hours from my novel.
A writer lives for a letter like that. Set on a scale against five
shoe boxes full of rejections, careless reviews, and all the doubt
and dark hours of the writing life, it more than holds its own. That
is the kind of bare human connection that lies at the heart of the
writing dream. Your favorite book may be out of print, the graph of
your credit card balance may look like the profile of Heartbreak
Hill, your editor may quit two months before your new novel hits the
shelves, but you can console yourself with the thought that you have
spent your working life trying to put something pure and true on the
page. And, at least on this one occasion, at least for this one
other human being, reading to his dying sister by flashlight in a
dark hospital room, you have managed to do so…. "
(Roland Merullo, from his essay “The Writing Life” , published in The Boston Globe, 2001 )