A central suggestion arising at the end of my first novel, which then shapes my new one, What’s Left, is that her father will be crucial in guiding the family in its embrace of Buddhist practice. Even if I cast that as spirituality rather than religion, it’s a big challenge.
In the course of multiple revisions, this was greatly toned down and redirected.
While Cassia’s concerned with more fully defining who her father was, the novel’s primary focus is on her. Here’s some background that’s much fainter in the final version:
Where had he come from, what prompted his interests, what were his pet peeves, what made him truly angry or truly delighted?
To make this little more concrete:
Some people contend my Baba was a lama. Not the camel-like pack animal from the Andes but a Tibetan Buddhist born in a humble city along the Mississippi, of all places. After college in Indiana and a broken heart, he looped into Dharma by way of, well, a hippie farm where Thea Nita also lived. And then he found refuge in something like a monastery. And then he magically returned here. You thought a monk couldn’t get married? Technically, no, though we’re dealing with an American twist in the mechanics of reincarnation. Or so they’ve told me.
In the end, much less of the responsibility falls on him. Rather, he helps establish an institute having a resident teacher, Rinpoche, who becomes his colleague.
For Cassia’s father, religion is a way of engaging life more fully. He might even say it is liberation from the tangles of daily life.
Let’s open our range of focus a bit wider.
Where do you go or what do you do to be free? Can you describe the feeling?