In Anne Donovan's first novel, she follows
the story of a working-class family in Glasgowwhose father has
discovered Buddhism through a local community center. Jimmy McKenna,
a painter, has never thought much of religion, but he is intrigued
by the people that he meets at the Centre and develops a mentoring
relationship with the head lama or teacher, Rinpoche. As he spends
more and more time at the Centre, he loses touch with his wife
and daughter. After going away for a weekend retreat, he finds
his wife even less receptive to his new-found faith.
The distance between Jimmy and his wife, Liz,
did not begin when he became interested in Buddhism, but she
chooses to blame his religious practice for their lack of connection.
She has secret, unfulfilled desires of her own. Her anger draws
her inward and exacerbates the marital strife.
The third narrator of the novel is the daughter
in the McKenna family, Anne Marie. As a young teen, she is aware
of what is going on between her parents, but is consumed by dreams
of a future music career. When her religion class at school begins
to study Buddhism, she thinks that she will finally understand
her father. Instead, she finds herself embarrassed and uncomfortable.
In Buddha Da, Donovan infuses her characters
with simple charm and humor while illuminating the inner workings
of human relationships. She uses phonetic spellings to capture
the accents of Glasgow which can be difficult to read until you
establish a cadence. But slowing down allows the reader to overhear
and savor each characters thoughts on the complicated issues
of living, dying, working, pleasure, and religion.