Adolescence meets enlightenment in this funny memoir, which details what happens to an awkward English teenager when his middle-class, middle-aged father decides to go Hindu.
At the start of this droll coming-of-age account, rock critic Hodgkinson (Song Man: A Melodic Adventure, or, My Single-Minded Approach to Songwriting, 2008, etc.) is a Jimi Hendrix–loving 11-year-old who has just moved into a newer, bigger home with his well-paid journalist parents, Nev and Mum, and his surly older brother, Tom. The folks have little in common; Nev is a patient, easygoing, well-respected journalist, while Mum is a loud, brash, well-paid Fleet Street doyenne. It was a rocky but solid environment that was destabilized when Nev became seriously ill—and had a blinding light vision that would lead to permanent family embarrassment. Soon after, he joined the Brahma Kumaris, an ascetic, female-led Hindu cult that proclaims the virtues of meditation, vegetarianism, and celibacy. For Mum, this transformation wasn’t a total disaster; she hated sex and was glad to give it up. For the author, Nev became the source of confused emotions; he loved and defended his dad, and he was also ashamed of him. The situation led to some hilariously described episodes, such as when Nev showed up unannounced at Will’s school, in regulation pajamas, to explain meditation to the class. (It didn’t take long for Will’s classmates to “start sniggering, whispering, and generally making it clear that this was something I would never, ever be allowed to forget.”) With a sharp wit that is never mean-spirited, Hodgkinson recounts his growing up and coming to terms with all the various characters in and out of his family.
A sweet-and-sour account of a family that is unhappy in its own unique—and very amusing—way.