“Amarcord,” the amusing autobiographical film by the late Italian director, Federico Fellini, and Oraga Haru (The Year of My Life), a slim volume of haiku and verse by the 18th century Buddhist poet-priest, Issa, are unusual artistic creations – from entirely different epochs and mediums and cultures – that have one core element in common: both are nostalgic fictional memoirs that condense an entire life into a symbolic year progressing through the seasons.
Inspired by these works, Mr. Morais has written Buddhaland Brooklyn, published by Scribner and now in bookstores.
In this novel a repressed Buddhist monk, Reverend Seido Oda, tells the bitter-sweet story of how he found his adoptive home: As a set-in-his-ways middle aged priest, Reverend Oda is sent by his Japanese superiors across the ocean with instructions to build a temple in an Italian neighborhood in Brooklyn. As the curmudgeonly priest carries out his duties, he is forced by New York and its colorful residents to confront his past, and along the way the monk finds himself unwittingly undergoing a profound transformation as the seasons around him change.
“Morais lovingly renders both the country inn where [Reverend] Oda grew up and the Little Calabria neighborhood in Brooklyn. Buddhaland Brooklyn is best enjoyed as a slow read. The world Morais creates for Oda and the reader is quirky and enchanting. His recurring rumination on the meaning of enlightenment and acceptance is worth savoring.” – The Washington Independent Review of Books.
“Buddhaland Brooklyn is a rare gem of a novel in that it is rich with both fabulous description and a juicy plot.” Shambhala Sun.
“What follows is a charming and touching tale of discovery. Oda not only experiences the obvious cultural differences but also launches a journey to discovering a deeper sense of himself, his faith, and his purpose. A reflective story that is certain to be appreciated by those who enjoy reading about the human condition.” – Library Journal.
“What’s perhaps the most striking about this novel is the sympathy for Seido. His character is memorable, almost to the point that he jumps out of the page and walks around, trying to understand how people could live the way that they do. Morais has struck gold with this novel, which is simultaneously funny, sad, and enlightening. Even without fully understanding Buddhism, any reader can sense the meaning it holds in Seido’s life, and the overwhelming confusion he faces when he is flown out of Buddhaland and into Brooklyn.”- The Daily Reporter.
“Through Oda’s story, Morais shows the modernist influences on traditional Buddhism, contrasting the austere, natural serenity of temple life to with the pent-up frustrations of a boxy, concrete metropolis. It is a dilemma familiar to believers of all faiths seeking to reconcile their own viewpoints against those of their religion. Readers who follow Morais’s lyrical narrative will find spiritual redemption of their own in his search for the paradisiacal Buddhaland.”- Shelf Awareness (“Starred Review.”)
“Morais’ follow-up to his debut novel, The Hundred-Foot Journey, is a delightful and insightful fish-out-of-water tale. The fish is a Japanese Buddhist monk Seido Oda, separated from his family at an early age and immersed only in prayer, painting and poetry. Oda’s serene life is upended when he is suddenly sent to Brooklyn to open a Buddhist temple. there he encounters fund-raising cocktail parties, Buddhism for Dummies, and a woman named Jennifer.” – The New York Post ( “Required Reading”)
“A gentle Buddhist priest from Japan is given the task of building a temple in the Little Calabria section of Brooklyn, and the results are both calamitous and sweet. Morais writes with sensitivity and insight about the many ways American life challenges the Reverend Oda’s equanimity.”—Kirkus Reviews
“By leaving the austere orderliness of Japan and entering the noisy hodgepodge or Brooklyn, Seido finds, for the first time, a community. With patience and sacrifice, he learns to communicate his faith and rediscovers it for himself. A breezy read that ably moves to a …feel-good resolution.” —Publishers Weeky
“You will learn something new (although Mr. Morais explains this novel is not a doctrinal explanation of Buddhism.) You will laugh (Americans in all their crude, crazy glory, can provide great insights and sensitivity.) But, most of all, you will love this wonderful story. Enlightenment can be found in the most alarming places.” – Book Hog
“This account of a Buddhist priest’s journey through life sheds light on cultural differences and finding acceptance.” — Booklist