Sunday, April 10, 2016

The Yoga of Max's Discontent

Title:  The Yoga of Max's Discontent
Author:  Karan Bajaj
Publication Information:  Riverhead Books. 2016. 336 pages.
ISBN:  1594634114 / 978-1594634116

Book Source:  I received this book through the Penguin First to Read program free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "I give her a week at most."

Favorite Quote:  "So many teachers, so many belief systems, yet none inspired confidence. Why wasn't the path to the most fundamental human quests clearer?"

First, a disclaimer. This book centers on a belief system and a lifestyle. My view of beliefs is that to each his own as long as we show respect for each other's. So, no comments on that content of the book other than the fact that this book can serve as a guide to those looking to follow a yogic lifestyle.

Now on to the book and the story it tells. The plot is easily described. Max is a successful young man who has just lost his mother and finds himself at a crossroads in life. A chance meeting with a stranger sets him on a path to seek enlightenment. His journey criss-crosses through India, as he looks for answers. The book is about his path to contentment and peace.

This book is easy and quick to read. The author's acknowledgements state, "This isn't a book as much as a result of five years of my life trying to walk on the path of yoga. I stumbled and struggled often to reach the point where I become just a channel for this story to tell itself." This statement describes the book itself. It stumbles and tumbles through Max's journey, at times reading more like a memoir than a novel.  It includes many descriptions of yoga practises and the associated lifestyle, fascinating as an insight into a different culture. Note that the book unfortunately also includes a couple of sex scenes, which at best seem awkward and out of place, especially in a book focused on spiritual enlightenment.

My biggest issue with the book is that I do not find Max a sympathetic character. Yes, he is a child of the projects, growing up in poverty and amid violence. Yes, his life had a duality of his private school education during the day and his street life in the projects at night. Yet, throughout all of this, he is loved. Although his childhood is not deeply explored in the book, it is clear that his mother makes sacrifice after sacrifice to get her children a better life.

Max, in some ways, is the epitome of the American dream - a child of immigrant parents who grows up in the projects and makes it to a pinnacle of success in his career. Several times, he talks about being able to do certain things because he has money. It is his mother's sacrifices that ultimately lead to financial security. It is in fact his success that enables him to give voice to his discontent, leave his job, and go in search of contentment.

I understand the quest for something more, but it seems a luxury afforded to one who is unattached, financially able, and not struggling day by day to survive. Perhaps a greater development of Max's childhood would make his quest more understandable, but I am left wondering what his mother would have thought of his decision. The question arises as to what contentment is, and, I suppose, in this case, I trouble accepting Max's definition.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

No comments:

Post a Comment