These days there are many books advertised as “laugh out load” funny (the back cover of Breakfast with Buddha makes this claim), which simply fail to meet that promise. “Slightly amusing” would be the most favorable term this reader would come up with for this intended-to-be-funny tale of an intended-to-be-life-changing trip. The storyline is quite similar to that of Greetings from Somewhere Else by Monica McInerney, in which a person must take a long journey to settle a family’s affairs after someone has died. But where McInerney’s tale was charming, Roland Merullo’s story seems forced.
In Somewhere Else, the main character was traveling to a tumbledown bed and breakfast outside of Belfast, Ireland; in Breakfast, we’re asked to join in a six-day ride along from New York to North Dakota. Fun? Well, not so much.
Merullo is known for subtly inserting “spiritual lessons” within everyday narratives, but without the humor, this seemed like Bob Greene-light (with apologies to Mr. Greene). If you’ve ever stood in a restaurant’s kitchen while food was being prepared, you know that it takes the magic out of the dining experience. Reading this novel was like standing in a writer’s kitchen.
Algonquin, $13.95, 334 pages
Reprinted courtesy of Sacramento Book Revew. A trade paperback review copy was provided by the publisher.