The Delight of Being Ordinary by Roland Merullo

The Delight of Being Ordinary

Roland Merullo's playful, eloquent, and life-affirming novel finds the Pope and the Dalai Lama teaming up for an unsanctioned road trip through the Italian countryside to rediscover the everyday joys of life that can seem, even for the two holiest men in the world, unattainable.What happens when the Pope and the Dalai Lama decide they need an undercover vacation? During a...

Title:The Delight of Being Ordinary
Author:
Rating:
ISBN:0385540922
Format Type:ebook
Number of Pages:320 pages

The Delight of Being Ordinary Reviews

  • Randal White
    Nov 28, 2016

    Blew My Mind! Imagine if the Pope and the Dalai Lama, together, escaped their entourages and embarked on a tour of the Italian countryside. No minders, no press, completely incognito. That is the very interesting premise of this book. Their experiences range from the ordinary to the extraordinary. The ending, without giving anything away, will blow your mind! Guaranteed to make you feel all warm inside, yet possibly shake you to your core. The author does an amazing job, making the entire caper

    Blew My Mind! Imagine if the Pope and the Dalai Lama, together, escaped their entourages and embarked on a tour of the Italian countryside. No minders, no press, completely incognito. That is the very interesting premise of this book. Their experiences range from the ordinary to the extraordinary. The ending, without giving anything away, will blow your mind! Guaranteed to make you feel all warm inside, yet possibly shake you to your core. The author does an amazing job, making the entire caper feel real, and like you're alongside. This is a book that I'm really glad to have had the opportunity to read, and will be highly recommending to my friends and family. 

  • Robin
    Feb 08, 2017

    The Delight of Being Ordinary is the reason I read books. How else to take yourself out of the darkness of the headlines, the political controversies, the hate filled rhetoric of our elected officials and government than to read a novel with the Pope and the Dalai Lama as two central characters that team up for a road trip that will make you laugh and appreciate the ordinary things in life as well as the extraordinary. I Loved it!

  • Brenda Schneider
    Feb 15, 2017

    A wonderfully fun read. I really enjoyed it. I won this book through Goodreads.

  • Rian Nejar
    Feb 17, 2017

    The book title intrigued me - how did Roland Merullo bring out the essence of simplicity, the joys of shedding pretensions and embracing humility in life - but, in my limited perception, no significant enlightenment in this aspect could be gleaned within. Instead, one finds costumes, a fancy machine, a road trip funded by unlimited Vatican wealth (that, in a handful, could almost pay the bill for said Maserati), Mussolini, and the decadence of It

    The book title intrigued me - how did Roland Merullo bring out the essence of simplicity, the joys of shedding pretensions and embracing humility in life - but, in my limited perception, no significant enlightenment in this aspect could be gleaned within. Instead, one finds costumes, a fancy machine, a road trip funded by unlimited Vatican wealth (that, in a handful, could almost pay the bill for said Maserati), Mussolini, and the decadence of Italian movie stars. Sure, 'great men' are taken out along Italian roads for a few days' break from their exhausting royal duties - an adventure playing truants - which, if you'll excuse me, is rather remote from anything 'ordinary.'

    Let's move on. Spoilers ahead, but you'll forgive me.

    Imaginative?

    The author marries Orthodox Christianity to Buddhist reincarnation and rebirth, and manages to also spring an immaculate conception upon unsuspecting readers near the end. Predictable? Arguably, though he invents a new religion-less religion of a great mother and a great father enjoined in creation. Hmm.

    Just what was he getting at? Let's leave that aside - it is just a road trip, after all. Only, it isn't! It's also a good lot of musings on religion, on similarities and some differences, on doubt, self-doubt, restraint, and reconciliation...a hodge-podge of self-help reading material on Catholicism, Tibetan Buddhism, and various aspects one comes across in contemporary lives. He uses religion, and religious beliefs, in his attempt to get to non-religion. Seemed rather irreverent to me.

    So - having explained the gist in a boring, linear fashion - a few thoughts on the writing. It is engaging and even enjoyable in places. It is a fun story with reasonably rounded characters and inconsequential ones thrown in for good measure. There is an unhealthy obsession with

    within, but given that the adventure is set in Italy, he had to have something to bash - perhaps to make a powerful institution, that in part collaborated with German Nazis, look good in comparison - and a dictator summarily executed by the people he tormented was as good a choice as any. There are descriptions of national tragedies, the Italian countryside, and aspects of the culture that are interesting. There isn't anything exceptional; for want of a better description, let's just say the writing delights in being ordinary.

    A

    received and reviewed.

  • Bob H
    Mar 03, 2017

    So, the Pope and the Dalai Lama sneak out of the Vatican and take a drive, incognito, across contemporary Italy. It sounds like the setup to a silly joke, but is the premise of a road-trip novel that is by turns comic, introspective, philosophical, and profound. It's fiction, but follows a believable theme, that these two famous men would like to have at least a few days alone and in ordinary settings. The Dalai Lama happens to be visiting the Vatican, the Pope is aware of a tunnel to the Castel

    So, the Pope and the Dalai Lama sneak out of the Vatican and take a drive, incognito, across contemporary Italy. It sounds like the setup to a silly joke, but is the premise of a road-trip novel that is by turns comic, introspective, philosophical, and profound. It's fiction, but follows a believable theme, that these two famous men would like to have at least a few days alone and in ordinary settings. The Dalai Lama happens to be visiting the Vatican, the Pope is aware of a tunnel to the Castel Sant'Angelo, and, abetted by the Pope's (fictional) secretary Paolo, an Italian-American cousin, they slip away from the two dignitaries' security details and escape. Joined by Paolo's estranged wife Rosa, they begin a madcap journey.

    The characters are vivid: the two holy men seem true to their real-life personae, modest, thoughtful, down-to-earth. Paolo, writing in a nervous first-person, is through the story a jittery Sancho Panza, and Rosa, whose cosmetic skills help disguise them, a brassy, frank Napoletana. Their trip is at times somber; the first stop is L'Aquila, a mountain town wrecked by the 2009 quake and slowly recovering. The four, in cars and lodgings, talk more and more candidly about religion, human nature and the state of the world, stopping here and there to take in the scenery and the local cuisine as a national manhunt begins. As a travelogue of Italy, it rings true; as a look at how these four people evolve as they careen through this adventure, it never fails to fascinate or amuse. It's respectful to its characters but can be profound, especially as they encounter surprises among the people they meet and among themselves.

    Great literature? It's difficult to say, but this book is an intriguing, amusing, and often thought-provoking read, highly worthwhile for just about any reader. Highest recommendation.

  • Rebecca Foster
    May 29, 2017

    This has the air of a whimsical religious fable. Narrated by the Pope’s cousin and first assistant, Paolo dePadova, it’s about how the Pope and the Dalai Lama manage to sneak away from the Vatican for a five-day Italian vacation. Paolo is a former travel agent and his ex-wife and co-conspirator, Rosa, is a hair and makeup artist, so they’re the perfect pair to arrange a last-minute road trip in disguises. They take a secret tunnel from the Pope’s private chapel into town and meet Rosa there, whe

    This has the air of a whimsical religious fable. Narrated by the Pope’s cousin and first assistant, Paolo dePadova, it’s about how the Pope and the Dalai Lama manage to sneak away from the Vatican for a five-day Italian vacation. Paolo is a former travel agent and his ex-wife and co-conspirator, Rosa, is a hair and makeup artist, so they’re the perfect pair to arrange a last-minute road trip in disguises. They take a secret tunnel from the Pope’s private chapel into town and meet Rosa there, where she and her colleagues work their magic. The Pope (“Giorgio”) is gotten up as a Scandinavian businessman with a blond hairpiece, while the Dalai Lama (“Tenzin”) is a Yoko Ono-type rock star with a long wig and big glasses. Paolo himself gets a new identity, too: as a darker-skinned Gaddafi lookalike, he gets to experience what it’s like to be a despised minority in rural Italy.

    At first it seems the trip is just a chance for these two holy men to enjoy ordinary life, but gradually we realize that they are also on a religious mission: they’ve been having remarkably similar visions of a special child whom the Dalai Lama believes could be his successor on Earth. The book contains a number of low-key religious debates, most of them initiated by Rosa, and there are pearls of spiritual wisdom dotted through. I especially appreciated what the Dalai Lama has to say to Paolo about why things fell apart between him and Rosa: “We make up stories about the other person. In our minds we build these stories—she is this way, he is that way; look, she always do this, he always do that—and then these things keep us from seeing this person full as they are in present moment.” Some of the plot felt predictable to me, but the characters’ actions and speech are believable.

  • Denise
    Apr 24, 2017

    The title is exactly right for men with such high status. I enjoyed this book but felt is was more like a road trip of marriage counseling for the Pope's faithful cousin. Put that aside what adventures they had & conversation were said was enjoyable and fun to imagine. And that is what books are for to let our mind live in another world & enjoy.

  • Jendi
    Jun 07, 2017

    Beautiful writing, no dramatic tension, positive but sometimes shallow message, and unpleasant ableism about mental health and neurodiversity. Splitting the difference between the good and bad aspects, I would give it 2.5 stars.

    As a Christian married to a Buddhist, I could be considered the ideal audience for this book. My Episcopal church group just finished a video series about Pope Francis that left us with great admiration for his humble piety and concern for the poor, though naturally we di

    Beautiful writing, no dramatic tension, positive but sometimes shallow message, and unpleasant ableism about mental health and neurodiversity. Splitting the difference between the good and bad aspects, I would give it 2.5 stars.

    As a Christian married to a Buddhist, I could be considered the ideal audience for this book. My Episcopal church group just finished a video series about Pope Francis that left us with great admiration for his humble piety and concern for the poor, though naturally we disagree on gender issues. So I was receptive to the book's message that we need to de-emphasize doctrinal boundaries and religious institutions, and find the common heart of compassion in all faiths. I appreciate that Merullo allowed respectful disagreements between the characters to remain unresolved.

    I usually feel that it's cheating to throw in miraculous events at the end of a realist novel to tie up your plot. But this book was not realistic from the beginning, more of a novelized allegory or fable, so the claim of a modern-day virgin birth didn't bother me. It challenged me to consider that the seeds of divinity are in all of us.

    As I mentioned, Merullo is a great stylist. The narrator's voice was both poetic and funny. I felt I was getting an inside look at Italian history and culture from someone who loved the place. On the down side, the story really dragged for me because there was no tension. I could already predict from the jacket copy that this would be a feel-good, sentimental story where the husband and wife reconcile, everyone learns a valuable lesson, and there are no negative consequences for creating an international panic about the disappearance of two famous religious leaders.

    I do admire Pope Francis, but the fictional version's benign perfection was rather too much. The civilian characters challenge him a bit about birth control and women's roles, but he gets a pass on other life-and-death issues where the Church continues to do great harm. I was angry that Merullo has the Pope muse sadly about depression and suicide among young people, attributing these problems to a generic crisis of modernity and alienation. What about all the LGBTQ kids who take their lives because of conservative religious teachings? Take out the mote in your own eye, Your Holiness.

    The mental health ableism was the book's biggest flaw. Compared to his companions, Paolo is an anxious person who likes order and security, which the book treats as a spiritual flaw for him to overcome. This plays into the widespread problem of churches shaming people for their depression and anxiety as a lack of faith. Judgmental moralizing about natural human neurological variations is no better than preaching heterosexual superiority.

    The Pope and the Dalai Lama have lifelong phobias of heights and water, respectively, that are cured after (involuntary, in the Pope's case) one instance of forced exposure to the scary situation. I can't emphasize enough what an abusive thing this would be to do to a real person with a phobia. The false notion that people need to be shocked out of their comfort zones undergirds real-life opposition to trigger warnings and other accommodations for a range of disabilities such as PTSD and autism.

    For a real-life story of the harms of forced positivity and mental health stigma in modern Christianity, I recommend this essay by Laura Turner (tw: suicide):

    Turner writes: "I wonder how an entire faith system could exist without making room for anxious minds or depressed spirits. The stigma of mental illness is pervasive in many Christian communities, a rich irony because the stigma, or the marks of Christ, are the injuries we are called to bear, and Jesus was certainly acquainted with anguish. That is the shame of the religion of positivity that has infiltrated some Christian circles. Now the Great Commission is to make your life happy, no matter what you have to ignore to do so. Evangelical leaders write inspirational books; Christian radio plays only “positive, encouraging” music; a certain strain of Christian blogs festooned in flowers promise a full life if we would just pray boldly enough. People sublimate a nagging sense of meaninglessness into pop psychology, and cheerful productivity, and it takes hold because it feels good not to have to acknowledge our suffering, to believe that with enough faith we will be spared the trials of Job. "

    I received a free copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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