An investigation into the life and death of Ian Thorson, a devotee of controversial Buddhist teacher Michael Roche. An examination of the interplay between mental illness and spiritual practice. A journalistic retelling of the way Buddhism (especially Tibetan Buddhism) has been translated in the west with an emphasis on the Roche’s extremely unorthodox teaching.
A compelling read from start to finish. In the hands of a lesser journalist, this could have been trashy, but Carney knows what he’s doing, and he treats Thorson’s life story, from New York City kid to thirty something Buddhist dying in the wilds of Arizona with compassion and journalistic rigor.
Like real life, there’s no real heroes here – everyone is deeply flawed and at least a little broken. If anyone is a villain, it’s Roche, who created a cult-like atmosphere around him which, arguably, lead to the extreme behavior of some of his followers, and Thorson’s death. But, of course, like real life, even this is complicated.
If Buddhism in America, cults, or new religious movements are you thing, this is worth a read.
Recommended for the Enthusiast.