Tag Archives: Buddhism

How Buddha Came to Brooklyn

Japan mountain scene
Japan mountain scene

Destinations: Japan and Brooklyn, New York

 Book:  Buddhaland Brooklyn by Richard C. Morais (NEW July, 212)

This new novel, like meditation, encourages calm thoughts and some new insights into oneself and one’s culture. But it brings  some laughs, too.

I gravitate to books that bring a culture to life, and since I’ve never been to Japan, I appreciated the subtle ways that Richard Morais introduces the Japanese mindset in Buddhaland Brooklyn: A Novel. What we are used to, we assume, is “right” so we have no trouble reading about the culture of Japan–as Americans, comparing it to our own American culture. Continue reading How Buddha Came to Brooklyn

Movie Searches for New Lama in Nepal

Destination: Nepal

Movie: Unmistaken Child (2008)

I gasped as the camera panned over a crystal steam and showed a misty green valley shadowed by the moutains that climbers dream of.  The camera tracks characters through the otherworldly narrow passageways between rough stone buildings that could just as well have been built in Middle Ages Europe as living villages in Nepal. Not just once, but several times while watching  Unmistaken Child, I had to fight the urge to call an airline– book a flight– get to Nepal. Now! Continue reading Movie Searches for New Lama in Nepal

New Book about Exotic Bhutan


Buddha Statue, Tibet

Destination: Bhutan

Book: The Heart of the Buddha by Elsie Sze (Released October 1, 2009)

When I was younger I wanted very much to go to Bhutan.  I bought a detailed travel book about trekking in Bhutan that included information about the country’s people and history. I never got there and now I am settling in to a different kind of travel, and can only go to these more challenging locations vicariously.


For that reason, when the publicist sent me a copy, I read The Heart of the Buddha, a  novel/travel book, with  appreciation for the details of daily life, descriptions of the cities, and particularly information about Tantric Buddhism. I appreciated the glossary that allows the author to use the proper Bhutanese words in the narrative and allows me to check the meaning as I read along.


Buddhist Monastery in Tibet


Briefly, a young woman has gone to Bhutan as a librarian, and when she goes missing, her twin sister goes to search for her. Along the way, the first young woman falls in love with a Buddhist monk, they steal into Tibet to obtain a sacred book that belongs to Bhutan, and the sister, following their trail, falls in love with her Bhutanese guide.


As a novel, The Heart of the Buddha fails to hold my attention.While the plot line has potential, the exposition comes in sodden lumps rather than being scattered seamlessly within dialogue and story. We  constantly get almost apologetic explanations of why some particular action is possible:  something like, “Since he studied the Tibetan language in school, he could pass as a citizen of the country.”

Although at times, the language mimics the hot panting (or is that hot pants?) of a romance novel, it also tries to be a story of  suspense.

Cliff hanger questions are stated boldly and relentlessly. “What did he look like? Would he answer to Marian’s description of him? And the question that worried me most–where was Marian?”  Trust the reader. We kinda know what she is thinking about since she went all the way to Bhutan to find her sister.

The worst thing about the book, though, is the violation of the most sacred principle of story telling–show, don’t tell. Part of the story is told through a written memoir and most of the rest, is related in conversations.  The memoir also contains long passages of dialogue so that there is no difference in style between the supposed memoir and the novel itself.

In the near future, I will be writing about Mistress of the Sun by Sandra Guilliland. I am currently reading this book that serves as a model of how a writer can be a careful researcher, include the tiniest details of daily life plus a broad overview, and still make the writing sparkle. Unfortunately, Ms. Sze is not at that point.

Both photos in this post are courtesy of Bob and Clare Rogers, all rights reserved. Bob and Clare are currently on a bicycle trip across China, Tibet, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand. Click on the picture to follow their adventure.