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Buddha Da

ISBN: 1841954519

By Anne Donovan

Review by: Natasha Whitton


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.

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