cover image The Holy Man's Journey

The Holy Man's Journey

Susan Trott. Riverhead Hardcover, $18 (148pp) ISBN 978-1-57322-057-6

""Being nice is good luck,"" explains Anna, a spirited Irish healer, to her five-year-old son. ""Why didn't I come up with that in all these years?"" laughs Joe, a 73-year-old holy man with advanced heart disease. Like last year's fable, The Holy Man, this sequel charms by not taking the holy man role too seriously. ""People are holy, every last one of them,"" Joe announces as he leaves his mountain hermitage in an undisclosed land. Dying and determined to deliver a healing lesson to Chen, his own teacher, Joe journeys to Chen's lavish ""Universe-city"" accompanied by Anna, his chosen successor. Along the way, the kind but inexperienced Anna is treated to life lessons. She listens as Joe helps a bitter, unfulfilled cab driver find his true calling; she watches incredulously as Joe disarms a knife-wielding thief with openhearted generosity; she learns, as Joe defuses a fight between two taxi drivers whose vehicles collided, that taking the blame in a situation ""even if you didn't do it, smoothes the knottiest situation spectacularly and immediately."" Finally, grappling with her dislike of Chen, whom she condemns as self-aggrandizing and greedy, Anna comes to grasp Joe's ultimate message of loving tolerance and self-knowledge. Some of the lessons sound like Psychotherapy 101 (""my theory about obsessive collecting is that it is repressed creativity""). Yet, Trott is as wily as her sweet-spirited holy man, using her no-pressure storytelling style to lull readers into unexpected moments of wit and illumination. Dutch rights sold to Uitgeverij Bzztoh. (Mar.)