This was an enjoyable spiritual travelogue (first time I've ever read that kind of book!) Following the deaths of his parents in North Dakota, Otto--an editor of books about food-- gets stuck road-tripping with a Russian spiritual guru (Volya Rinpoche) to the family farm in order to take care of his parents' estate. Otto's sister is a New-Age free spirit who wants to give Rinpoche half of their parents' estate, making cynical Otto very skeptical.
One aspect I liked about this book was the familiarity of landmarks on their journey: Hershey Park (where my sister performed in a show), Youngstown and Toledo (I'm from Ohio), Notre Dame (where I attended grad school), and Chicago (my favorite city). It is heartwarming both for the reader and for the protagonist Otto to see those locations freshly through Rinpoche's enraptured and smiling eyes. I was also intrigued by the concept that our spiritual development can contribute to the peacefulness with which we accept our own death.
What I didn't like so much was the vague similarity in storyline to the movie Planes, Trains, and Automobiles. I totally abhorred the John Candy role, and for some reason the spiritual guru in this book reminded me a little of him. At one point Rinpoche conveniently forgets to mention that he's expected to give a talk at a town hundreds of miles away in less than a few hours, so Otto is left breaking all speed limits in an effort to get him there on time. That kind of thing would drive me nuts! I also grew weary of Rinpoche telling Otto he was a "good man" despite the feeling that Rinpoche was totally judging Otto for being gluttonous and too much of this world.
To me it didn't seem entirely believable that Otto began to see the light by the end of the story. But perhaps I'm even more cynical than Otto!