Book review: Enlightenment for Idiots

Spiritual novel is part chicklit, part exposé, and always fun

Enlightenment For Idiots Cushman new age fiction spiritual novel metaphysical fiction

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

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


16 thoughts on “Book review: Enlightenment for Idiots

  1. Hi PJ,
    This one sounds fun, I just ordered it. I’m getting disgusted with writing on HP, and am onward to other sites. But I have a domain name and hope to set up a better blog in the future. Now I realize my articles must be much shorter, just a teaser to send people to said blog, whenever I pull that off. I have alot of new writing to do! Take care, Jean B

    • James, there are many great sites that review spiritual nonfiction. I’m trying to meet the needs of an under-served group, spiritual fiction readers and writers. It’s hard to identify well-written novels that both inspire and entertain. I focus on fiction and sometimes memoirs if they are particularly entertaining. Thank you for your interest, and good luck with your book!

  2. Hi PJ,
    The person who helped me set up my blog put me on Twitter, so tweets go out when I write a new piece, but I am unsure if I want to tweet back. I reviewed this book on, and have been writing a bit on Infobarrel too, trying to get traffic to my blog. I notice that not many sites have a category for Metaphysical topics, and I’ve been explaining to the webmasters that Metaphysical fiction is a whole, new, exciting genre! Some sites don’t even have Astrology and Tarot as categories! I adored Until the Next Time by Kevin Fox, I read it twice. It mirrors my belief in reincarnation, but also I have been exploring my Irish heritage, so it was a wonderful read! I thank you for finding all these wonderful books, and even organized my bookshelves to make more room this weekend! Take care.

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