The Holy Man (1995)

by Susan Trott

A long line of modern-day pilgrims ascends a mountain to see the holy man who lives at the top. When their turn finally comes, many are simply walked through the hermitage and out the back door. And yet somehow each has realized an answer to his or her problems of jealousy, anger, fear, vanity, impatience, violence, and other human foibles. And so have readers. The pilgrims’ cares are universal, and the insights are uncomplicated and profound at the same time.

The holy man, Joe, isn’t a perfect human himself, but he is wise, patient, and caring. When he does dispense advice, some of Joe’s philosophy — that the answers we seek are already inside ourselves, for instance — may seem Buddhist, but Joe delivers a nondenominational message: “If you look on everyone you meet as a holy person, you will be happy.”

There is a storyline in the aging Joe’s worry about who will succeed him, a problem that’s resolved at the end. But this delightful book shouldn’t be read for its plot development. It might be best to read each of the 34 short chapters by itself, taking a bit of time to ponder its message before going on.


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