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On Reading a Memoir

Monday, March 25th, 2013

REVERE BEACH ELEGY: A memoir of Home and Beyond  By Roland Merullo was sent to me by publisher Peter at PFP Publishing/First AJAR Contemporaries because I saw that it was being offered up on Merullo’s newsletter for review by bloggers.   I made a request and within hours it was on my e-reader.  Thank you so much

This is an autobiography in 10 essays and is not a straight story line about birth to present; I really liked this view and the highlights of his life shared in this style and with this kind of choppy movement.  The Librarian/author Nancy Pearls  tells us on National Public Radio to read a memoir while keeping in mind that much of our living is boring – mundane routine and we need to remember that memoirs are at least 20% fiction to keep us interested and connected to the telling.

I also keep in mind that when it is an autobiographic writing, then the other members of a family or friends will have witnessed a different perspective of the events, story and ideas.  The author can choose to leave out details or arguments and has control over what is presented.  What I so enjoyed about this read was that Merullo had such fine analysis linked to his thoughts at the time of the event and to his hindsight acquired wisdom, so that, the context of the story was indicative of something shared in his novels and other writing, but also what he gleaned and how that provided creative vision to his creativity.

There is an unsurpassed element of kindness in this book.  The ability to share emotions and to use them is quite astute and surely should provide a model for how the rest of us might strive.  The emotions are not ignored rather they are played out with fine tuning so the reader can truly identify and try them on for practice and future reference.   One can witness how this tuning is played out in BREAKFAST WITH BUDDHA and LUNCH WITH BUDDHA where the feelings just seamlessly touch you – and one is left to say “YES” that is just how it feels to me.

Revere is the name of the city where Merullo lived and grew – The title was mistakenly read by me as a Dream or Thought process at first or even Paul Revere’s famous ride. I did not connect Beach to the name until I started reading and then I had to look it up on the map and laugh at myself for my mistake!  I so enjoyed all the closeness of family and the connections, especially since that was not part of my life.

I wondered again why so many Catholic kids grow up and embrace Buddhism?  Is it just because of all the Rock Stars who went to India or found a guru?  In this case, I think it is because it better represents the inner strength of the author and how he manifests his spirit; lots of Italian energy and food included in the present tense.

One of the essays is about how he, his wife, and infant daughter, just gathered up his mother and took her to Italy to live for a short period of time.  Not just a tourist visit, but a real move in and connect experience.  He knew how to achieve that from his work in Russia and his Peace Corp experiences.

I want to be more myself, my core self, when I read Merullo’s stories.  They inspire me not to imitate his experiences but to look to more meaningful experiences to undertake and enjoy.  All my analysis of living going on inside my head has a purpose and it is reassuring that my ability to integrate ideas and feelings is shared by someone else.  Roland Merullo has found a way to express them and let them fly free and not just ruminate within the psyche.

When I read a memoir, I work at being kind and non-judgmental.  I seek to find the positive and the opportunity which came from this telling.  This writer has shared the details and formed from this experience and now I can benefit from knowing and understanding. I do not need to try and repeat.  The pleasure is mine in the reading.

Have you ever thought of sharing a memoir of your life experiences?  Would you want to publish them? Would you stick with fiction?

I did receive a copy of this book from PFP Publishing/First AJAR Contemporaries.

If you purchase anything from AMAZON or POWELL’S  from this sight I will receive a few beans in my bucket.  Thank you.  Donations also welcome.

Related Reading:
Breakfast With Buddha
Lunch With Buddha
The Paper Garden

Lunch With Buddha ~Roland Merullo

Tuesday, November 20th, 2012

Lunch With Buddha is a second road trip with Otto Ringling and Voyla Rinpoche which begins in Washington State and takes us to North Dakota.   The first road trip for these two can be found in the Merullo novel of 2007 called Breakfast With Buddha.   I discovered this book in May of 2009 and so enjoyed it that I put it on my summer reading list and reviewed the book on my own.

I was just roaming around Amazon and this opening paragraph on the Amazon review of Breakfast with Buddha just snagged my full attention:

“The only thing certain about a journey is that it has a beginning and an end – for you never know what may happen along the way. And so it is with this journey into the minds and souls of two very different men – one of them in search of truth, the other a man who may already have found it.”

Lunch With Buddha  is a new road trip, because Ringling has made a promise to his wife that he will scatter her ashes in a mountain spot where they went camping when they were newly married.  It is seven months after the death of his wife from cancer and it is time to take care of his promise.  The Buddhist monk in the first story is now his brother-in-law and the father of his 5 year old niece.   The retreat center on the family farm in North Dakota is up and running and after the family returns the ashes to the earth, the two men are to drive a gift truck back to the retreat center.

Merullo actually took this trip with his children in order to write this second book which must be going to become a trilogy. (I expect in a few years that we will see the Dinner with Buddha on the book shelves – The stage has been set)  My copy of the novel came complete with photographs of the various locations that they shared and the specialty meals that they enjoyed.  I have always wanted to go to CAVE B  and the Grand Coulee Dam  but because I live in Washington State we just go past those spots getting to someplace else.

There is as much detail about the other states that the team travels through also and their swim in Yellowstone is a delightful segment I thoroughly enjoyed.  The duo are very respectful of each other as Ringling moves from grief to mourning and the Monk assists in the letting go and looking towards the future and the teaching of his child to use her gifts.  The current US elections add to the story line and the conversation and the characters that they meet along the way add an extraordinary dimension and quirkiness to the journey.


When TLC book Tours asked me to review this book, I just jumped right up in the air – no lie – and happy danced.  In the wakeful moments of the past three years when I just could not sleep, I have read  Breakfast With Buddha  3 more times.  It just delights me and calms me down into a centered space.  The questions that Otto Ringling is asking are the questions that I am contemplating.  The book can pull me away from worry and anger in just a moment or two of reading.

When the Independent publisher, contacted me early on, I joined the Facebook page for Lunch with Buddha and sent out a huge “bring it on” message.   I had so much trouble waiting that I purchased another book by Merullo in the mean and explored his other words.  I chose A Little Love Story I was not disappointed.   I just enjoy Merullo’s style – play with words and ideas.


I am filled with gratitude for having been given a copy of this book to read and I say a huge thank you. The book also supports an Independent publishing company, PFP Publishing and that feels good too.  TLC and Newtonville Books are offering up a free copy of this book for the best comment – so what would you like to say?  What questions would ask the author?

Sometimes a second story on the same pathway is not so wonderful – this was not the case with LUNCH WITH BUDDHA It was a joy to read and explore. I was fully engaged in the road trip, every mile of the way.

Lunch with Buddha home page
Roland Merullo web page

If you purchase anything from Amazon or Powell’s from this site, I will receive a few beans in my bucket.  Thank you.  Donations also welcomed.

Related Reading:
Breakfast With Buddha
The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry
Walter’s Muse