Spiritual novel is part chicklit, part exposé, and always fun
Rating: 4 1/2 out of 5 stars
Want to see what a spiritual journey to India is really like? Forget “Eat, Pray, Love” and pick up this gem of a novel: “Enlightenment for Idiots” by Anne Cushman. Published in 2009, the book exposes India’s spiritual warts with a humorous touch, packaged in an engaging tale of self-discovery. This fun, fast-paced story reaches emotional and spiritual depths beyond standard chicklit fare.
Story: Nearing age thirty, Amanda thought she’d be someone else by now. Instead, she’s just herself: an ex-nanny yogini-wannabe who cranks out “For Idiots” travel guides just to scrape by. Yes, she has her sexy photographer boyfriend, but he’s usually gone—shooting a dogsled race in Alaska or a vision quest in Peru—or just hooking up with other girls. However, she’s sure her new assignment, “Enlightenment for Idiots,” will change everything; now she’ll become the serene, centered woman she was meant to be. After some breakup sex, she’s off to India to find a new, more spiritual life. (From amazon.com)
Spiritual/metaphysical content: High. The story charts Amanda’s path through a slew of ashrams, temples, and hermitages as she desperately searches for spiritual enlightenment. In addition to the many details about various yoga practices and meditation traditions, Cushman threads the story with Zen philosophy and metaphysical principles that infuse Amanda’s personable character with nuance and heart.
My take: In addition to offering an amusing and insightful story of personal transformation, the novel presents a biting examination of how the American spiritual journey has become a very profitable industry in parts of India. Cushman reminds us that an ashram is also a business with salaries, overhead, marketing costs, and human quirks and failings that all contribute to a seeker’s experience. Enlightenment for Idiots is a brisk, engaging tour of India’s enlightenment industry and an excellent example of spiritual fiction.
Enlightenment for Idiots, by Anne Cushman
Published by Crown, 2008
Paperback, 372 pages
Buy at Amazon