Remarkably candid; a deeply fascinating account of Thailand and Buddhism.

A Man in Saffron Robes


An intimate look into the unique experience of entering the Buddhist monkhood in Thailand.

Phansa is a common tradition in Thailand: Young Buddhist men are ordained for a monthslong retreat in a monastery during the country’s rainy season, only to disrobe at the end and return to their lives as laymen. A successful, married writer with two young children and a steady job in Bangkok at the Metropolitan Waterworks Authority, Limpichart undertook this task in 1974, later in life than some, spurred by his own intense sense of duty and pragmatic spirit. Titled Khon Nai Phaa Leuang in the original Thai, Limpichart’s memoir documents his early preparation and ordination, along with his time spent at the temple of Wat Prathat Doi Kong Mu, located not far from the country now widely called Myanmar. His account here is not strictly of the lessons gleaned from Dhamma or the teachings of the Buddha but rather his experiences while studying it, as he learned to adapt to a more contemplative existence, free from distractions. Landau’s translation is approachable, never sacrificing the author’s subdued wit or thoughtful knack for descriptions. English readers unfamiliar with Thailand will find the fogs over Mae Hong Son, along with many other settings, vividly described. And while many of Limpichart’s own ruminations focus on the physical—stiff toes from meditating, the wet air of the monsoon season, chafed thighs and cut feet from taking alms—there are also explorations of surprisingly familiar emotional struggles not unique to the monkhood, such as loneliness and the importance of humility, whether concerning faith or just completing day-to-day tasks. The lone flaw in the book’s presentation is a lack of context; those unfamiliar with Thai or Buddhist culture will no doubt find some attitudes and social mores jarring, even alien, and a more comprehensive primer about customs in this part of the world could have easily remedied this, much in the same way the remarkable photos of Limpichart’s ordination help illustrate a ceremony few have experienced firsthand.

Remarkably candid; a deeply fascinating account of Thailand and Buddhism.

Pub Date: April 17, 2013

ISBN: 978-1481863094

Page Count: 312

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2013

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Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

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More life reflections from the bestselling author on themes of societal captivity and the catharsis of personal freedom.

In her third book, Doyle (Love Warrior, 2016, etc.) begins with a life-changing event. “Four years ago,” she writes, “married to the father of my three children, I fell in love with a woman.” That woman, Abby Wambach, would become her wife. Emblematically arranged into three sections—“Caged,” “Keys,” “Freedom”—the narrative offers, among other elements, vignettes about the soulful author’s girlhood, when she was bulimic and felt like a zoo animal, a “caged girl made for wide-open skies.” She followed the path that seemed right and appropriate based on her Catholic upbringing and adolescent conditioning. After a downward spiral into “drinking, drugging, and purging,” Doyle found sobriety and the authentic self she’d been suppressing. Still, there was trouble: Straining an already troubled marriage was her husband’s infidelity, which eventually led to life-altering choices and the discovery of a love she’d never experienced before. Throughout the book, Doyle remains open and candid, whether she’s admitting to rigging a high school homecoming court election or denouncing the doting perfectionism of “cream cheese parenting,” which is about “giving your children the best of everything.” The author’s fears and concerns are often mirrored by real-world issues: gender roles and bias, white privilege, racism, and religion-fueled homophobia and hypocrisy. Some stories merely skim the surface of larger issues, but Doyle revisits them in later sections and digs deeper, using friends and familial references to personify their impact on her life, both past and present. Shorter pieces, some only a page in length, manage to effectively translate an emotional gut punch, as when Doyle’s therapist called her blooming extramarital lesbian love a “dangerous distraction.” Ultimately, the narrative is an in-depth look at a courageous woman eager to share the wealth of her experiences by embracing vulnerability and reclaiming her inner strength and resiliency.

Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-0125-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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