Thursday 23 May 2013

Review: Buddhaland Brooklyn by Richard C. Morais

A novel about clashing civilizations and the search for truth across cultural divides

As he approaches his fortieth birthday, the introverted monk Seido Oda is ordered by his superior to leave behind his peaceful refuge in the remote mountains of Japan and set up a temple in Brooklyn’s Little Calabria. There Oda is confronted with an uphill struggle to get to understand the ways of his new host country, and finds his patience and beliefs tested by a motley crew of misguided American Buddhists – a shock which will enable him to come to terms with painful memories of his past and finally experience that sense of belonging he has always sought.

Featuring rich descriptions of idyllic Japanese landscapes and the gritty chaos of New York, and a cast of eccentric, larger-than-life characters, Buddhaland Brooklyn – Richard C. Morais’s second novel after the acclaimed The Hundred Foot Journey – is an entertaining and edifying meditation on faith, cultural divides and the meaning of true acceptance. (via Alma Books)

Having had the pleasure of interviewing Mr. Morais about Buddhaland Brooklyn earlier in the year (click here to read), it’s great to have finally read the novel itself. And, even better, I’m happy to say that I wasn't disappointed!

The novel unfolds at a gentle pace, which I feel reflects the overall theme very well. Usually, as I've mentioned several times in the past, stories that are slow to develop usually make me impatient but here I was happy to just let it blossom in its own time. Much of this had to do with the wonderful, poetic descriptions filling each page they enticed me to read on further. I even went so far as to bookmark and highlight several pages, so that I might revisit certain images or words of wisdom again!

But ultimately it was the novel's main character, Seido Oda, who persuaded me to keep reading. His backstory and developing insights into the world around him were all fascinating, and I had to find out how he would fare in Brooklyn amongst such challenging personalities. I particularly enjoyed Reverend Oda's interactions with Jennifer and Michael; two very different New Yorkers who perhaps bring out the most in him.

Overall, Buddhaland Brooklyn is a personal story told with wit, insight and simplicity. If you enjoy novels with a compelling sense of place and culture, spirituality, and strong characters, I would definitely recommend this.

Rating: 4 / 5