Summary and book reviews of The Delight of Being Ordinary by Roland Merullo

The Delight of Being Ordinary

A Road Trip with the Pope and the Dalai Lama

by Roland Merullo

The Delight of Being Ordinary by Roland Merullo X
The Delight of Being Ordinary by Roland Merullo
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  • First Published:
    Apr 2017, 384 pages
    Paperback:
    Mar 2018, 384 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Kim Kovacs

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About this Book

Book Summary

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 Dali Lama decide they need an undercover vacation? During a highly publicized official visit at the Vatican, the Pope suggests an adventure so unexpected and appealing that neither man can resist. Before dawn, two of the most beloved and famous people on the planet don disguises, slip into a waiting car, and experience the countryside as regular people. Along for the ride are the Pope's overwhelmed cousin Paolo and his estranged wife Rosa, an eccentric hairdresser with a lust for life who cannot resist the call to adventure - or the fun.

Against a landscape of good humor, exploration and spiritual delight, not to mention the sublime rolling hills of Italy, The Delight of Being Ordinary showcases the charming sensibilities of Roland Merullo (whose bestselling Breakfast with Buddha has sold over 200,000 copies), in a novel that makes us laugh as well as think about the demands of ordinary life, spiritual life, and the identities by which we all define ourselves.

Day One

1

My name is Paolo dePadova—­son of an Italian mother and an American infantryman father, and thanks to a peculiar combination of loyalty and luck I served, for a time, as First Assistant to my beloved cousin His Holiness the Pope of Rome. My tenure didn't last long. In fact, my duties came to an end as a direct result of the story I'm about to tell here, a story the Pope himself asked me to make public when I felt the time was right. Parts of it will be familiar from headlines in the international news, but, as you might expect, those parts were sensationalized, tarnished by rumor, stained with misinformation. The heart of it, the essence, the real, full story, remains known only to a handful of people, myself included. I share it now in a spirit of reverence and compassion, but also in service to the truth. As my cousin liked to say, "Anche i papi sono uomini." Which might be translated as "Popes are people, too."

2

My odd story begins, oddly enough, with a ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. Each character has very distinct views on religion.  Did they change by the end of the novel?
  2. Did any of your perspectives on religion change while reading?
  3. Where was the common ground in their discussions?  Where did they disagree?
  4. Which location during their travels would you most want to visit?
  5. How was family love emphasized or portrayed in the novel?
  6. How did Paolo and Rosa's relationship change from the beginning to the end?
  7. How did the Pope and Dalai Lama's dreams affect the course of the novel?
  8. Do you believe everyone needs to take a step back from their routines of everyday life? Why?
  9. In the end, do you think the trip was worth the risk for the Pope and Dalai Lama?  For Paolo and Rosa?
  10. What is...
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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

My opinion about The Delight of Being Ordinary is decidedly mixed. I loved the beginning; it has the madcap abandon of a good, old-fashioned Bob Hope and Bing Crosby road-trip movie from the 1940s. I also enjoyed the travelogue sections that so brilliantly describe the landscape of Italy that it made me yearn to visit. Paolo's contemplation of his relationship with his wife are realistic and heartfelt, and encouraged me to think about those who are important in my own life. However, the question-and-answer sections between the religious figures and the two secular individuals felt forced and awkward, and the author's attempts to reconcile the two belief systems was ultimately unsatisfying.   (Reviewed by Kim Kovacs).

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Media Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Merullo’s newest is a thoughtful, compassionate, and mature work, a 'Christian- Buddhist-agnostic prayer' to the world, and readers will find a pleasant surprise in its conclusion.

Booklist
Whimsical and irreverent, Merullo’s parable meanders through divine doctrines and human relationships, attaining insights where least expected . . . A charming story celebrating connections over divisions that will especially thrill devotees of Merullo’s Buddha Trilogy

Kirkus Reviews
Starred Review. Lucid, unpretentious fiction spotlighting the drama of trying to make the divine part of our everyday lives.

Reader Reviews

Sherrie

Warm & happy story
I loved the book, as I do all Mr Merullo's stories which include Rinpoche. I only hope he continues to follow this story so we know what happens with those 'special' children. My favorite time of day is mornings, because I read his book with my ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

Pope Francis

In The Delight of Being Ordinary, Pope Francis invites the Dalai Lama along on a road trip through the Italian countryside.

Pope Francis Pope Francis was born Jorge Mario Bergoglio on December 17, 1936, in Buenos Aires, Argentina. His father, Mario Jose Bergoglio (1908-1959) was an Italian immigrant who fled Italy in 1929 to escape Mussolini's fascist regime. His mother, Regina Mario Sivori (1911-1981), was the daughter of Italian immigrants. The eldest of five children, Jorge attended school in Buenos Aires, graduating as a chemical technician. He was hired as a laboratory tech, and also worked as a janitor and a bar bouncer to make ends meet.

Inspired by a local priest, he felt called to enroll at the Inmaculada Concepcion Seminary in 1955...

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