Saturday, March 23, 2019

Heart and Humor Win the Day

Professor Chandra Follows His BlissProfessor Chandra Follows His Bliss by Rajeev Balasubramanyam
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What a great book for book clubs! Professor Chandra and his Cambridge colleagues thought he would get the 2016 Nobel Prize in economics, but on announcement day he’s passed over; put on furlough for calling a female student an imbecile; run into by a bicyclist, and finds out he's had a silent heart attack. He spends his 70th birthday alone: rich, respected, divorced, and mostly estranged from his kids. He has moments of kindness to protégées, but he's a grumpy old man. His son is rich from telling people how to succeed in business through affirmations, his oldest daughter is a radical and doesn’t talk to him anymore, and his ex lives in Boulder with her psychologist husband and the youngest daughter, a high school senior who gets involved with drugs. This allows Chandra to escape from the mess of his life in England. He goes to Boulder in attempt to fix his daughter. Professor Chandra is not a likeable dude—until he punches laid-back Steve ("Kids experiment!") in the nose, and Steve manipulates him into a weekend retreat at Esalen. "Being Who You Are at Summer Solstice" is not where or who Chandra wants to be, but he starts asking some questions and observing himself. Conservative intellectual meets emotional woo-woo, and the humor and growth begin. It’s challenging to read about your country from a foreigner’s viewpoint, just as it’s challenging to see yourself through someone else’s eyes—and yet modernity has shown us we’re all more alike than different, adopting what pleases us and complaining about the rest. So much fodder for book club exploration and talk: generational, cultural, political and societal divides, with heart and humor the only options for authentic connection. This is really a story of coming to an accommodation with an ever-changing, confusing world, coming to terms with life as an elder. I’d love to know what other folks think about it, too: the best kind of book club book. Recommended!
(Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for a digital review copy!)

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